Hewlett Packard (HP) plans to launch a range of Bluetooth-enabled PC cards that will let users of its OmniBook and Pavilion notebook PC ranges wirelessly synchronise files with their personal digital assistants and mobile phones.
Developed by 3Com, the cards are expected to be available worldwide on 1 November at an estimated street price of $149 (£100). Bluetooth is a wireless technology that enables appliances such as mobile phones, PCs, printers and handheld devices to transmit data over short distances using low-power radio signals.
HP also plans to ship Bluetooth cards for printers, scanners and digital cameras at a later date, and by spring 2001 the company expects to sell Bluetooth integrated notebooks, keyboards and mice, according to Laura Kahler, senior product manager with HP's mobile computing unit.
"By the middle of next year the cost of Bluetooth chipsets will come down to enable Bluetooth to be used as a cable replacement," she said.
Analysts have predicted a bright future for the Bluetooth market which, according to researcher Frost & Sullivan, is expected to be worth $53.1bn worldwide by 2006. But some analysts have criticised vendors for falling short of their originally planned mid-2000 shipment dates for Bluetooth-compatible devices.
Kahler said HP could ship Bluetooth cards now but noted that applications to enable users to synchronise calendars, contact lists and other files will not be available until the end of the year. Also, the work to ensure Bluetooth works across a range of devices has proved "cumbersome", she said.
The lack of support from Microsoft has also had a negative impact on the Bluetooth movement, according to Kahler, but the software giant plans to add Bluetooth compatibility to Whistler, the successor to Windows 2000, which is expected to ship commercially in the second half of 2001.
HP's Bluetooth plans were part of a wider announcement of a range of wireless appliances targeted at the small to medium sized enterprise (SME) market. They include an entry-level laptop, the OmniBook XE3, which includes a CDRom, DVDRom, modem/local area network and internet keyboard. Priced at under 1600 euros (£960), it will begin shipping in the UK this month.
HP also unveiled a new e-PC targeted at the SME market. The next generation e-Vectra will include a 'one touch' internet access keyboard and will be available in the UK in the last quarter of this year.
The third appliance is the HP NetServer E800, an internet ready server with an ISDN card allowing connection to the internet via copper-based telephone lines. The server is expected to start shipping in most European countries by mid-November.
Additional reporting by Claire Woffenden
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