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.
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.
Intel and Bluetooth
To begin with, Intel demonstrated a flashy, flat-panel prototype PC it calls Florence. The glossy black machine features built-in biometric fingerprint recognition, high-def audio and video conferencing. But what caught my eye was a wafer-thin wireless keyboard and a VOIP cell handset that were also part of Florence. Both the handset and keypad use Bluetooth.
Next up on the roster, Intels recently announced 3G platform. The company made it crystal clear that it thinks PDAs are out and smart phones are in. So Intel is pushing a 3G solution that includes not only Wi-Fi but also Bluetooth. And while they still are being coy about what flavor of Wi-Fi will be in the initial chipsets, they are certain that Bluetooth will be part of the package.
Thats good news for the likes of DaimlerChrysler who have been offering built-in handsfree Bluetooth systems in some of their cars. And for smartphones it means better functionality.
So what have we got in terms of a prognosis? If you put Intels prototype desktop together with the Intel-based smart phones coming out this year, youve got a nice Bluetooth connection. True, many of the desktop systems Intel uses to tout its technology never see the light of day. On the other hand, Logitech hasnt had much trouble adding Bluetooth support to PCs (okay, never mind about Microsofts problems in this regard).
As for me, warchalking, channel contention, and even neighbors who take free rides on my network havent stopped me from using Wi-Fi. So Im not going to start worrying about Bluesnarfing now.
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