Bluetooth Is Showing Some Bite

Things are looking up for Bluetooth-that is, if having a few products actually shipping and genuine support from Microsoft are positive signs for a technology.

Things are looking up for Bluetooth—that is, if having a few products actually shipping and genuine support from Microsoft Corp. are positive signs for a technology.

The Redmond, Wash., company last week said Windows CE .Net, its upcoming embedded operating system for small devices, has been qualified by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group to support Bluetooth products.

In addition, Microsoft has incorporated Cambridge Silicon Radio Inc.s BlueCore Serial Protocol into CE .Net, formerly known as Talisker, which is due by the end of the year.

Microsoft has not been the biggest fan of Bluetooth, a short-range radio protocol that enables portable devices to communicate wirelessly within 30 feet of one another. Windows XP does not include native support for Bluetooth, so customers who want to install Bluetooth devices have to install additional drivers provided by device manufacturers. Microsoft has said native support wasnt worth the effort because there were so few Bluetooth devices on the market.

"I think its great that Talisker has support for Bluetooth," said Erich Berman, advanced technology consultant at Northwestern Mutual, in Milwaukee, and an eWeek Corporate Partner. "It would have been even better if XP had it, but its better to have some of what you want than none of what you want."

While Bluetooth devices arent sweeping the market the way the Bluetooth SIG predicted they would two years ago, they are proving themselves to be more than vapor this year.

At the Comdex show in Las Vegas next week, London-based TDK Systems Inc. will unveil the Go Blue USB Adapter, a Bluetooth module for notebook computers and PCs. The company will also show the Blue5 module for Palm V devices and a Bluetooth PC Card.

Also at Comdex, CSR, of Cambridge, England, will demonstrate Bluetooth communication between Palm devices and Sony Corp. Vaio notebooks.

Red-M, of Wexham Springs, England, an early supporter of Bluetooth, this week will announce the 1050AP, an access point that connects Bluetooth devices to a WLAN (wireless LAN). The product is due later this month, priced at $495.

Bluetooth radio manufacturer Silicon Wave Inc. last week announced its latest series of development tools and processors. The baseband design requires 12KB of RAM, which is less than previous versions, and the processors cost $5 apiece when bought in bulk.

Industry analysts and prospective customers have been saying for years that a $5 radio is what will make the industry embrace the technology. Indeed, the cheaper Bluetooth is compared with the WLAN technology 802.11b, the better a chance it has of succeeding in the market.