Bluetooth Is Dead; Long Live Bluetooth

Bluetooth Is Dead; Long Live Bluetooth

Jason Brooks

By the time these words are published, the Bluetooth Developers Conference will have come and gone. After three days of vendors predicting a bright wire-free future while conducting jaw-dropping demos with circuit boards in clear plastic enclosures, the persistent Bluetooth question will remain: Is this stuff ever going to break out of show-floor captivity and live in the wild?

One positive sign came this month in the form of a Cahners In-Stat report that Bluetooth chip-set shipments this year will be double those of 802.11b.

Another, perhaps more convincing sign is that the sorts of Bluetooth gear that litter eWeek Labs have progressed beyond the PC Cards that’ve been the sole real-world Bluetooth standard-bearers for more than a year now.

Among other things, I’ve been testing what I believe will be the first killer solution for the fledgling short-range wireless technology—a Bluetooth- enabled PDA teamed with a like-equipped wireless handset.

The setup I’ve been working with—a Compaq iPaq H3850 with a Bluetooth CompactFlash card from Anycom, along with an Ericsson T39m Bluetooth handset—works as advertised. I’ve been able to stroll around, mobile phone in my back pocket, browsing the Net with the iPaq at a blinding 8.3K bps.

Not impressed? I don’t blame you, but upgrade the mobile phone link to the 40K bps available over GPRS from carriers such as VoiceStream, and you’ve got an impressive mobile connectivity solution.

However, definite hurdles for Bluetooth remain. While I don’t know of a better way than Bluetooth for carriers to boost their wireless data revenues, I don’t know of a U.S. carrier that makes Bluetooth handsets available to its users, either.

What’s more, Bluetooth is a complex technology, and every Bluetooth software interface I’ve tested so far passes along too great a share of that complexity to the user.

It’s going to take a more intuitive approach, such as the FEEL interface that Sony demonstrated at Comdex this year, to make Bluetooth a widespread winner.

What, if any, are your plans for Bluetooth? Drop me a line at

Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in eWEEK.