Bluetooth Showing Some Bite

Things are looking up for Blue-tooth-that is, if having a few products actu-ally shipping and genuine support from Mi-crosoft Corp. 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 this week said that Windows CE.Net, its upcoming embedded OS for small devices, has been qualified by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) to support Bluetooth products.

Also, Microsoft has incorporated Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR) Inc.s Blue-Core 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 each other. Windows XP does not include native support for Bluetooth, so customers who want to install Bluetooth devices have to install additional drivers provided by the device manufacturer. Microsoft has said that 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 SIG pre-dicted it would two years ago, they are proving themselves to be more than vapor this year.

At the Fall Comdex show in Las Vegas later this month, TDK Systems Inc. will unveil the Go Blue USB Adapter, a Bluetooth module for notebook computers and PCs. The company also will show the Bue5 module for PalmV devices and a Bluetooth PC card.

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

Red-M, an early supporter of Bluetooth, last week announced the 1050AP, an access point that connects Bluetooth devices to a wireless LAN. A pioneer in advanced wireless networking solutions, Red-M next week will announce the launch of its 1050AP smart access point. Its due later this month, and will cost $495.

Bluetooth radio manufacturer Silicon Wave Inc. this week announced its lat-est series of development tools and processors. The baseband design requires 12 KB 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 than the wireless LAN technology 802.11b, the better a chance it has of succeeding in the market.