Bluetooth Down But Not Out

SCOTTSDALE, AZ—Despite product delays, the current economic slowdown, and a recent slew of bad press, Bluetooth is still going to take a big bite out of the wireless networking market—at least that's what researchers at Cahners In-Stat Group believe. In a recent report, "Access Anytime, Anywhere: Bluetooth Will 'Make it So!'," the high-tech market research firm predicts that shipments of Bluetooth-enabled equipment will reach 955 million units in 2005.

Bluetooth is a short-range radio technology that enables wireless connections among portable devices (PDAs, cell phones, notebook computers), peripherals, and PCs located within 30 feet of one another. Transmission speeds can reach up to 720Kbps within the 2.4GHz band.

Joyce Putscher, Director of In-Stat's Consumer and Converging Markets and Technologies Group, acknowledged in the report that "2000 was a year of trials and tribulations for Bluetooth." Anyone watching the Bluetooth market during the past few months might find that comment something of an understatement. Microsoft recently announced that it would not be supporting the technology in its new Windows XP operating system, which instead opted to support the wireless LAN standard, IEEE 802.11b.

"The first 'hot spot' projects have already appeared in hotels, shopping malls, golf courses, airports, and more are expected to come to fruition by the end of the year," Putscher said. "Aside from hardware, there is a plethora of activity happening in application development, both on the client side and the server/services side. In-Stat expects that this activity will only increase."

Also, although 802.11b has something of an advantage right now, because products based on its technology are already shipping, Bluetooth is cheaper and simpler technology than wireless LAN. It's likely to have a leg up with consumers. And although Microsoft won't be supporting the technology, Bluetooth is backed by lots of heavy hitters, including 3Com, Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Lucent, Motorola, Nokia and Toshiba.

Bluetooth takes its name from the 10th century Viking King, Harald Bluetooth, who united Nordic nations under one religion.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].