Bluetooth Battles On
Yesterday, Michael Foley, the executive director of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group trade association, stopped by the Post to show off an upcoming version of the Bluetooth wireless technologyfound in so many cell phones these days. He also talked about how Bluetooth is doing in the market.
Foley's demo of Bluetooth 2.1--the current version is 2.0--focused on how it simplifies common functions. He took a picture with a Nokia cell phone, then held it in front of a Bluetooth-enabled digital picture frame, then pressed one button on the phone to send over the photo. With older Bluetooth hardware, I would have had to navigate down multiple menus on the phone; instead, Bluetooth 2.1's support for "near field communication" allowed the frame to tell the phone that it was ready to receive a picture. (Naturally, when I tried this for myself it took me three tries to get this to happen.)
Bluetooth 2.1 will also include better security and improvements in battery life. It should be finalized in a month, but hardware incorporating it won't arrive for another 3 to 6 months.
With that out of the way, I asked Foley about some of the factors that have held Bluetooth back--some six years after its arrival, it remains a curiosity for many users.
One big reason: Most new PCs, excluding Apple's, still don't ship with Bluetooth. Foley said that Bluetooth's designers have addressed the concerns of computer vendors--for instance, the cost and battery life of Bluetooth keyboards and mice, as well as the way they once couldn't control a PC's bootup sequence.
But many companies keep holding back. For instance, the wireless keyboard on the HP TouchSmart desktop I reviewed last week used an older, non-Bluetooth radio-frequency link (which might explain why it sometimes didn't work).
Foley pointed to broader and better Bluetooth support in cars, including things like the Sync system Ford and Microsoft unveiled in January, and other devices, such as printers, medical devices and sports gear. But the major cause for optimism about Bluetooth has to be the continuing decline in the price of Bluetooth receivers; where once these parts cost $15 to $20 each, Foley said they're now down to $3 or $3.50. We're not at the point where Bluetooth is a free feature for a manufacturer to add, but we're getting closer.
Do you use Bluetooth in your daily life? Or has this entire entry left you wondering "Blue-what?"
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