Bluetooth Edges Closer to Maturity

Anycom adapters demonstrate Bluetooth 1.2's strengths, as well as its soft spots.

When Bluetooth, a standard for ad hoc wireless connectivity, was first released in 1998, the technology was billed as a cable replacement cure-all.

However, as Bluetooth-enabled gear started hitting the market, early adopters began to realize that the vision of what Bluetooth could one day do didnt match the reality of what was actually possible at the time.

Its been more than five years since Bluetooth was released, and although the Bluetooth specification and the devices based on it have grown more mature, plenty of work must still be done before the technology can fulfill its ambitious original goals.

The latest release of the Bluetooth specification, Version 1.2, became final late last year. eWEEK Labs tested a pair of Bluetooth 1.2-capable USB (Universal Serial Bus) adapters from Anycom Inc. that began shipping in May. The devices, the $50 Anycom Blue USB-240 and $40 USB-120, are the first Bluetooth 1.2-based products weve had the opportunity to test.

Although we found both of the Anycom adapters to be significant improvements over the Bluetooth 1.1-based units they replace, some tricky problems remain. The troublesome issues and areas of uncertainty we encountered in our tests are common to most products in the Bluetooth ecosystem and are the result of the complicated way that specification developers, software developers and hardware vendors interact to produce user devices.

/zimages/6/28571.gifWhy is Jason Brooks pulling for Bluetooth? Find out here.

For one thing, although the Anycom hardware that we evaluated is Bluetooth 1.2-capable, the Widcomm software stack, with which it ships, is tied to the older 1.1 standard.

Further complicating matters, Widcomm was recently purchased by Bluetooth chip-set vendor Broadcom Corp. According to Anycom officials, Broadcom has indicated that it plans to discontinue support for radios from competing Bluetooth vendors, such as the Silicon Wave hardware that powers the Anycom adapters we tested.

Nevertheless, we were able to test the latest Anycom adapters alongside an earlier 1.1-based Anycom USB adapter and thus could compare the performance of the two in various scenarios.

Next Page: Bluetooth 1.2.