Last week there was tremendous activity in the area of wireless communications, with vendors such as Microsoft and Xircom raising the stakes over their support for Bluetooth.
Bluetooth is a wireless communications specification which enables manufacturers to build short-range radio links into portable devices, such as laptops and mobile phones, so they can communicate with each other. The aim is to enable customers to connect their devices without using cables.
Intel and Microsoft are working together to have the Windows operating system support the Bluetooth specification by the first half of 2001. They will also be working with other members of the industry to market the offerings when they become available.
Microsoft said in April that it would provide hardware and software support to vendors designing Bluetooth hardware and applications. Xircom has made its most aggressive move ever to set itself up as the leader in the wireless arena. The company has made deals that affect Wan links to wireless, Lan and personal networks.
Steve Kleynhans, an analyst at Meta Group, said: "It is generally well accepted throughout the industry. The technology is moving from vapourware to product, but it will still be some time before it becomes a truly pervasive technology."
Microsoft makes its commitment
On Microsoft's commitment to the technology, Kleynhans said: "Microsoft had really taken a somewhat agnostic view on the short wireless interconnect market.
"It was concerned that Bluetooth might not fit in with its networking model, or would not work well with its operating system. But it became part of the consortium to deal with those issues.
"This whole area is too important for Microsoft not to be involved."
Xircom will be manufacturing Bluetooth-enabled versions of its current products, which will be cross-marketed with Ericsson.
Benny Van Calster, European marketing director at Xircom, said: "The technology exchange resulting from this agreement will position both Xircom and Ericsson at the forefront of the global wireless market."
Xircom finds a solution
Xircom has already signed a deal with networking giant Cisco to develop Lan-based wireless solutions. The contract includes exchanging technologies to enable Xircom to broaden its appeal to companies that want to support mobile technology.
Xircom has also bought Omnipoint Technologies (OTI) for $52.2m (£32.6m) from Voicestream Wireless. Now the firm has access to experts in Wan-based wireless technology in OTI, who have developed Global System for Mobile communications, and General Packet Radio Service technology.
Dirk Gates, chairman of Xircom, believes Bluetooth will play a key role in connecting disparate devices, such as mobile phones, handheld data appliances and its own Rexx product.
However, with so many initiatives surrounding the Bluetooth standard, and so many companies wanting to be seen to be taking a lead in developing it, is there a danger that Bluetooth will fragment? Kleynhans thinks not. "While fragmentation is always possible, I think that all the players here are motivated to not let that happen," he said.
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