BLUETOOTH - Group kicks off ease-of-use initiative

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) kicked off this week's Bluetooth Developers Conference by announcing a new initiative to make it easier for consumers to set up products that use the short-range wireless technology.

The "5-Minute Ready" program announced Tuesday will include implementation guides for vendors, reference testing platforms and an interoperability testing facility sponsored by the SIG. For consumers, it includes a redesigned Web site with a feature for helping buyers find potential pairs of Bluetooth products. The SIG also will come up with a standard lexicon for the technology, in 33 languages, in part to foster better user manuals. All the initial parts of the initiative will be in place by the end of the first quarter of 2003 and other elements may be added later, according to Mike McCamon, executive director of the SIG, who gave a keynote address at the show Tuesday morning.

The industry consortium has faced some criticism in the past for not ensuring that developers implement Bluetooth in the same way, which some observers said has frustrated users and slowed adoption of the technology. The new steps should help ensure consistency among products, McCamon said.

Bluetooth, standardized in May 1998, has lost some momentum since its early days, McCamon acknowledged in a keynote address at the conference Tuesday morning. However, it recently has started to regain some of that momentum, said McCamon, who stepped into his position in April. Since that time, the organization has consulted with analysts and industry participants on its future strategy. Among the key problems, it turned out, was that there was no target for interoperability efforts in the industry, he said.

If consumers can't easily get one Bluetooth-enabled product to work with another one from a different vendor, they will be turned off by the technology, McCamon told the audience of developers and vendor executives.

"If we don't do this, everything we're doing and everything we've done won't matter," McCamon said.

Bluetooth is designed to transmit data at a maximum of 768K bps (bits per second) over a maximum distance of 10 meters. Originally promoted for wireless "personal area networks" of PCs, handheld computers, peripherals and printers on a user's desk, it has been most widely adopted in mobile phones. Key applications initially include linking a phone to a headset, making it easier to connect a phone to a car's audio system and using a data-enabled phone as a modem for a notebook PC or handheld computer, according to vendors and some industry analysts.

The Bluetooth Developers Conference continues through Thursday. More information is available at http://www.bluetooth.com.

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