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Microsoft Supporting USB 3.0 in Windows 8

Microsoft is working to make its forthcoming Windows 8 operating system work with Universal Serial Bus 3.0 (USB 3.0) technologies.

That notion, while not unexpected, was the subject of Monday's "building Windows 8" blog post, which is Microsoft's newly revamped effort to talk about its next-generation desktop operating system. Dennis Flanagan, Microsoft's director of program management for the Devices and Networking group, explained how Microsoft approached engineering issues on emerging USB 3.0 technology while also trying to stay compatible with Microsoft'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 sometime, the timeline for delivery seems about right.

Intel released important technical specs for USB 3.0 in August of 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," explained Flanagan in the blog, adding that Microsoft was extending that commitment across Windows 8.

About the Author

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

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