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Microsoft Working on USB 3.0 Support on Windows 8

According to the latest post on the Building Windows 8 blog, Microsoft's recently launched effort to discuss Windows 8, Microsoft is working to make its next-generation desktop OS work with Universal Serial Bus 3.0 (USB 3.0) technologies.

Dennis Flanagan, Microsoft's director of program management for the Devices and Networking group, explained in the post how Microsoft is approaching the engineering issues surrounding emerging USB 3.0 technology, while still staying compatible with the company's earlier USB software efforts. Flanagan didn't exactly promise that new PCs running Windows 8 would support USB 3.0. However, since Windows 8 is estimated to arrive in mid-2012 or 2013, the timeline for delivery seems to coincide.

Intel released important technical specs for USB 3.0 in August 2008 as part of a USB Promoter Group. That technical group also included the efforts of AMD, HP, Intel, Microsoft, NEC, Nvidia, NXP Semiconductors, Texas Instruments and Via Technologies. Since that time, it had been a race to market by hardware vendors. At the January Computer Electronics Show this year, the first certified USB 3.0 products were announced.

USB 3.0 is a high-speed interface specification for data transfer between devices, promising data transfer rates of up to 4.7 Gbps, or about 10 times the speed of the current USB 2.0 standard. The technology is also called "SuperSpeed USB."

Microsoft, for its part, collaborated with hardware partners on the USB 3.0 designs. An in-house device called the "Microsoft USB Test Tool" (MUTT) was created to simulate device behaviors and test USB 3.0 compatibility. According to Microsoft's blog, MUTT is representative of about "1,000 devices on a USB thumb drive." Later, Microsoft shared MUTT with its hardware partners, the blog indicated.

Such a massive degree of testing was indicated because USB 3.0 is designed to be backward compatible across earlier USB 2.0 and USB 1.0 specifications.

"Our customers have grown accustomed to expecting new version of Windows to work with their existing devices and drivers," Flanagan said in the blog, adding that Microsoft was extending that commitment across Windows 8.

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About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.