Bluetooth-enabled equipment will hit the market by the end of 2000 and usage will escalate in 2001, according to market researchers at Cahners In-Stat Group.
Bluetooth lets devices such as mobile phones, PCs, printers and handheld computers communicate wirelessly over short distances using low-power radio signals to transmit data. It operates in the 2.4Ghz frequency band and the original Bluetooth specification calls for output power of less than 10 milliwatts.
Joyce Putscher, director of In-Stat's Consumer and Converging Markets and Technologies Services, said the earliest Bluetooth devices will be high-end mobile phones and notebook PCs for business use, followed by PC cards and adapters.
Putscher also said that by December, Toshiba is likely to be the first to offer a Bluetooth option for one of its notebooks. "Ericsson has announced Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones that will debut by December as well, and there are several players that will come out first with PC cards and adapters, such as 3Com, Acer NeWeb, TDK, Psion Connect, Motorola and Socket Communications," she said.
She also indicated that chip shipments will pick up in the second half of 2000. Bluetooth "will really begin to sink its teeth into the market in 2001. By 2005, the market opportunity for Class 1, 2 and 3 solutions will approach $5bn," she said.
"Bluetooth offers customers increased value, flexibility and functionality [in] everyday communication. It offers mobility while connected and you can't do that with infrared," she added.
But despite efforts from industry giants to get products to market, the radio-based technology still faces several obstacles such as early reports of application interoperability problems and safety glitches.
Randy Guisto, an analyst at IDC, explained that beyond basic hardware compatibility, developers still face interoperability hurdles with applications. Even if the hardware can communicate, and even with native support in the operating system, "what's missing is the detailed application work within applications themselves", he said.
Although critics say the technology could suffer from overexposure and too little testing, analysts remain convinced that the technology will eventually catch on.
Nigel Deighton, Bluetooth analyst at Gartner, sees the low price point being key for Bluetooth's acceptance on the mass market. It currently costs about $25 for a company to incorporate Bluetooth into a product, but by 2004 or 2005, industry analysts expect that price to drop to about $5.
Deighton said he expects Bluetooth to hit the mass market in the first half of 2002.
The first five companies to officially back the Bluetooth technology were Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Nokia and Toshiba.
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