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Can Cypress bite into Bluetooth market?

A new technology from Cypress Semiconductor aims to be everything that Bluetooth is not in the world of PC peripherals.

Cypress Semiconductor is introducing a new technology that it says could leapfrog Bluetooth and other standards to create a standard for wirelessly linking peripherals such as mice and keyboards to a PC.

The company's new WirelessUSB chip operates in the unregulated 2.4GHz band, offering lower "latency"--or fraction-of-a-second delay in response--than 27MHz, 433MHz and 900MHz devices, while being simpler and less expensive to implement than Bluetooth, Cypress said. The CY694X chip can connect as many as seven devices up to 33 feet with a latency of less than 20 milliseconds. This latency can drop to just 8ms when four devices are connected.

WirelessUSB's low latency, compared with the more-established 27MHz, 433MHz and 900MHz devices, is intended to appeal to makers of gaming peripherals, which require latency lower than 30ms.

Test versions of the chip are currently being sent out, Cypress said Monday, and the chips will be out in production volumes in the first quarter of next year.

The chip costs $3.92 in high volumes and, unlike Bluetooth, will not require new drivers for operating systems that already support USB (universal serial bus).

"Current wireless technology has serious limitations, while Bluetooth is overkill for these applications," Cathal Phelan, a Cypress vice president, said in a statement. "Cypress' WirelessUSB products satisfy the three critical requirements for this market: power, price and latency."

Like Bluetooth, WirelessUSB uses a technology that allows it to operate in the same area with devices using the same frequency range without interference. Cypress said that batteries should last up to six months in typical keyboard applications. The technology lets transmissions be encrypted. It can achieve a maximum data rate of 217.6kbps.

Bluetooth, wireless standard HomeRF and Wi-Fi--also known as 802.11b--also use the 2.4GHz band, which most governments around the world have reserved for unregulated use.

Bluetooth is a much more versatile technology, allowing the creation of "personal area networks" (PANs) connecting mobile phones, PCs, handheld computers, headsets and other devices. It was introduced more than two years ago by the mobile-phone industry, where it has already established a significant presence, but is only now becoming a force to be reckoned with in the PC world.

Microsoft did not initially support Bluetooth in Windows XP, but the latest version does. Apple Computer incorporated support for Bluetooth on the desktop earlier this year with the Mac OS X 10.2, as well as software for wirelessly synchronizing mobile devices, but the company typically does not include chips for enabling Bluetooth connections in its PCs. Instead, consumers have to buy an add-on card.

In the absence of widespread availability of built-in support for Bluetooth on desktop PCs, however, some industry observers have said that Bluetooth is too difficult for consumers to set up.

ZDNet UK's Matthew Broersma reported from London.