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Home > Editorial > Full Story

A walk on the blue side

Look ma, no wires!

Imagine a connected world minus wires. You can connect your laptop or PDA to any device in the world! Or get rid of all those long cables trailing across your office!

Bluetooth a short-range wireless protocol for data transmission makes it possible to do just this and much more.

Bluetooth originated way back in 1998 when Ericsson, IBM, Nokia, Intel and Toshiba joined hands to create a protocol for seamlessly transmitting data between various devices sans cables. Bluetooth is a short-range radio technology that allows wireless data transmission between various computing and communication devices up to a distance of 10 meters and offers data transfer rates up to 1 Mbps.

But isn't Bluetooth a case of too little, too late? Especially if you consider that for a two-year-old technology, the number of products available can be counted on your fingers. Also, other competing technologies like the 802.11 offer better data transfer rates, and that too over longer distances.

Well, not exactly. Lets deal with both issues individually.

The product scene
If the skeptics are to be believed, Bluetooth sooner or later is going to go the WAP way. Their reasoning: It's been over two years plus and there are hardly any Bluetooth products available in the market.

Well, skeptics are wrong by a mile. Bluetooth products are slowly appearing on the market scene in the form of Bluetooth-enabled cell phones (Nokia, Ericsson), Bluetooth-enabled laptops and PDAs, network cards, and so on. This doesn't exactly imply that the technology is a success. As any new technology evolves, it first attracts a niche user base of tech and gizmo enthusiasts. Then, it has to survive for two-to-three years in the marketplace before it gains mass acceptance.

And with industry heavyweights like IBM, Nokia, Ericsson, Toshiba and over 2,000 other companies participating and contributing to the Bluetooth SIG (Special Interest Group), this technology simply can't be dismissed.

The competition
There is an ongoing debate on whether Bluetooth competes with 802.11, a WLAN technology. True, both technologies have some similarities, since they are both used for WLANS and operate in the unregulated 2.4 GHz frequency space.

But the similarity ends there. 802.11 transmits data about 15 times faster and that too over longer distances as compared to Bluetooth. But this higher speed and range comes at an inflated cost and higher power consumption follows. This makes 802.11 ideal for large corporate networks, while Bluetooth due to its low cost and low power

consumption is ideal for cellular phones, handhelds, laptops or wireless networks with a smaller spread. In the near future you may even see devices that support both Bluetooth as well as 802.11.

So will Bluetooth become the dominant platform for wireless connectivity in the future? If market pundits are to be believed, there will be more Bluetooth devices

available than you can imagine. Whatever rosy figures are tossed around, this is one technology that holds great potential. Now only if there was one of those really great products that exploited this technology to its full potential!

Sandeep Ajgaonkar
Assistant Editor
sandeepa@vsnl.com
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