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Microsoft adds P2P tools for Windows

The company releases a development kit for Windows XP that provides the network "plumbing" for peer-to-peer networks and launches an XP update with support for IPv6.

Microsoft is beefing up the peer-to-peer capabilities for its Windows XP operating system.

The software giant recently released a development kit for building peer-to-peer applications and an update to Windows XP that adds support for the Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) networking protocol.

As previously reported, both of these Windows XP tools are aimed at simplifying the creation of peer-to-peer applications. The tools are available for download from Microsoft's Web site.

In a peer network, individual machines communicate with one other directly, rather than uploading and downloading information to a central server. The most visible use of peer-to-peer applications is music file-swapping over the Internet, but some software companies assert that peer networking has a role in business applications as well.

Groove Networks has built a collaboration application around the idea of sharing documents between networked PCs and communication tools, such as instant messaging. Microsoft is a partial owner of Groove.

Sun Microsystems, too, has invested in peer technologies with its Jxta initiative, a set of programming capabilities that allow developers to build peer-to-peer systems. A number of independent software providers are using the networking plumbing in Jxta to build applications for collaboration applications or to connect devices, such as sensors, to computing systems.

With its new Windows XP development kit, Microsoft also hopes to encourage developers to build peer applications and help drive sales of Windows XP. Microsoft, which makes the bulk of its revenue through desktop software, has tried to encourage developers to build applications that tap into powerful PCs.

The Windows XP development kit introduces a few mechanisms to accommodate peer networks. For example, the update helps track the identity of people on networks, which typically rely on a server-based directory. The kit also has a "graphing and grouping" feature, which helps distribute data to many machines across a network.