The long awaited and much-hyped Bluetooth wireless technology is showing signs of life as products and components begin to trickle into the market.
This week, 3Com will unveil Bluetooth PC cards and software designed to manage a personal networking environment. Meanwhile, IBM last week introduced the Bluetooth UltraPort Module, a clip-on device designed to add Bluetooth functionality to ThinkPad laptops. And Hewlett-Packard and Compaq are readying Bluetooth-enabled systems for shipment in late summer.
Touted for its ability to create a PAN (personal area network), Bluetooth is a specification for establishing short-range radio links among PCs, handheld computers, phones, and a variety of other devices within a 30-foot range.
Despite the economic slowdown and delays in product shipments, Scottsdale, Ariz.-based research firm Cahners In-Stat Group expects shipments of Bluetooth-enabled products to reach 955 million units in 2005.
According to Jennifer DiMarzio, industry analyst at Summit Strategies in Boston, the technology's benefit for businesses is predicated on hands-on usage.
"[Business users] really need to experience and use Bluetooth for it to grow. People have been hearing about it for a long time but it needs to prove itself as a viable technology," DiMarzio said.
Based on the 1.1 specification, 3Com's Bluetooth PC Card slots into a laptop computer or other devices, creating connectivity at speeds as fast as 1Mbps. The company also is shipping the Bluetooth Connection Manager software, which creates a user interface for discovering and managing a network of Bluetooth-enabled devices.
Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM's Bluetooth UltraPort Module, available this summer, clips atop ThinkPad LCD displays to provide connections to a range of devices.
Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett-Packard's first integrated Bluetooth printer, the HP Deskjet 995C Inkjet printer, allows users to print wirelessly from other Bluetooth-enabled devices within 30 feet. The company is also developing for June shipment a print accessory to enable Bluetooth wireless printing from HP Deskjet 900C series inkjet printers and HP LaserJet 1000, 2000, and 4000 series printers.
Last week Compaq, based in Houston, said an integrated Bluetooth module for its new Evo Notebook N400c will be available in August.