Slow start for new wireless standard

Users who juggle wireless devices such as cellular phones, pagers and handheld computers are eager to get their hands on Bluetooth.

But the technology, announced last year, is taking longer than expected to get to market, and it will be two more years before it really takes off, analysts said.

Bluetooth is a standard for short-distance wireless communications, connecting devices at speeds up to 1Gbit/sec. and distances up to 10 metres.

Only a handful of working prototypes were shown at a Bluetooth pavilion at Comdex last week. Ericsson, a driving force behind Bluetooth, demonstrated a wireless handset for cellular phones.

Bluetooth is also being held back because neither 3Com, the maker of the Palm, nor Microsoft, which develops Windows CE, has endorsed it.

"Maybe the expectations on timing have been unrealistic," said Gerry Purdy, president and CEO of Mobile Insights in, California.

"It's curious to me why they are not taking more of a leadership role," Purdy said. Officials from Microsoft and 3Com's Palm division who were at Comdex said they're watching the technology but made no commitments to support it.

Some Palm users are more enthusiastic. One visitor to the Bluetooth pavilion carried an Iridium satellite pager, a Motorola StarTAC phone and a 3Com Palm on his belt. "Bluetooth would mean I could actually link my Palm to useful information all the time," said Harko Schwartz, president of NCME, a systems integrator in Philadelphia.

Purdy said Bluetooth will turn up in handheld computers, cell phones and laptops in a year and will be pervasive by late 2001.

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