Almost Blue

Intel's not backing away from Bluetooth (yet) says's Mobile & Wireless Editor JQ. And he's not afraid of Bluesnarfing, either.

To hear some analysts tell it, Bluetooth is already dead. Never mind the Bluetooth expansion cards for PDAs, the wireless earpieces and the handful of handsets available. The protocol is being overrun by the Wi-Fi buzz.

Bolstering their position, the nattering nabobs of negativism point to the relative paucity of products, the security problems, and the growing debate—and move toward--competing wireless standards. The last concern, they say, was driven home even further with the recent news about ultrawideband (which should be called ultrawidebattle) and Intels apparent plans to go it alone.

The security and privacy issues concern me as much as they should concern anyone whos ever been the victim of identity theft and who has to spend a lot of time in cyberspace. The security hole involves only a couple of Nokia and Sony Ericsson phones so far. Theres no patch for the problem on those phone, but its really more annoying than it is cause for genuine concern. Bluesnarfing doesnt worry me.

Why? Because even the smartest of the smart phones can only hold so much data. Lets face it, theres not much there to steal. If someone wants to heist a couple of hundred contacts and read my calendar for the week, more power to them.

However, the battle over the next wireless standard is troubling. There are competing technologies vying to become the officially sanctioned ultrawideband spec. Ultrawideband is supposed to be the next near-field wireless spec for connecting components that are within a feet of each other. But unlike Bluetooth, ultrawideband is supposed to deliver the kind of throughput that could handle, say, high-definition video transmissions. In the future, ultrawideband would let you take an HD camcorder, for example, put it on your desk, and have the camcorder wirelessly beam your latest opus directly to your PC for editing.

The problem is that some companies have become frustrated over the standards war in the IEEE 802.15.3a committee. Ultrawideband is ultranowhereband so far. Consequently, several manufacturers have made noise about coming out with their own specification and products, including Intel.

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Intel is calling its alternative Wireless USB and the protocol will do everything Bluetooth does, only a heck of a lot faster. Considering the power Intel has to pull partners into its fold (can you say "marketing dollars" and "Centrino"?) this would seem to be the death nell for Bluetooth ringing loud and clear.

So I started to have my doubts; maybe Bluetooth was on the outs. Then I met with Intel a couple of days ago. What I saw made me think Bluetooth is alive and healthy enough to not only hold its somewhat shaky place in the market but also increase its popularity over the next couple of years.

Next Page: Intels flat-panel PC and 3G Platform use Bluetooth.