Computer cables came another step closer to extinction this week as industry giants, including IBM, Nokia, Intel and Ericsson, finalised the first release of a new wireless connectivity technology.
Bluetooth specification version 1.0 will let developers create products that can connect with each other over short distances using radio signals rather than cables or infrared connections.
Membership of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group has soared to 867 companies since it launched, but analysts said the absence of Microsoft and the likely high price of Bluetooth devices could slow the rollercoaster down.
Bluetooth 1.0 is available to download from the Web for group members to use royalty free in products. The first software development kit for Bluetooth was launched by Ericsson earlier this year. (see Newswire 12 May)
Over 200 engineers have contributed to the development of Bluetooth over the past year. The first products, such as mobile phones, handheld computers and peripherals are expected to come to market next year.
"The question is the cost for incorporating Bluetooth into products. For handhelds what the cost will probably be will be a third of the cost of the device. It's not feasible at that point," said Diana Hwang, research manager at IDC.
Hwang said early adoptions of Bluetooth will likely take a two piece approach - the existing hardware plus a Bluetooth enabled connector. A notebook might use a Bluetooth enabled PC card.
Longer term, the benefits of Bluetooth will be appealing to business users. Users could connect to the Internet using a laptop connected to their mobile phone, without taking the phone out of their briefcase. A workgroup of laptop users could also share information wirelessly at a meeting.
Microsoft has still not committed to supporting Bluetooth in its products. Instead it will rely on third party products for Windows that support Bluetooth. (see Newswire 9 June)
Dataquest predicts that 79 per cent of digital handsets and more than 200 million PCs will incorporate Bluetooth technology by 2002.
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