Toshiba makes wireless push

Add another runner to the worldwide sprint for the wireless business, as Toshiba announced an initiative Monday to push into wireless networking and disclosed plans for new wireless PC products.

Toshiba intends to release a PC card and software using the Bluetooth wireless standard in the third quarter of this year, according to a company press release. Bluetooth capabilities will be built into some Toshiba portable computers, including the Tecra, by the end of the year. The company is also working on other wireless products, including access points, projectors, handhelds, cameras and phones that it says it plans to introduce by the fourth quarter.

Toshiba was one of Bluetooth's original backers when the standard was proposed two years ago by a group of vendors that also includes L.M. Ericsson Telephone, IBM, Intel and Nokia. The low-power radio technology allows computers, accessories, cellular phones and other mobile electronics to communicate with one another and to connect to the Internet without cables, using radio signals. For example, Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones and notebooks will eventually be able to get wireless Internet access via cellular carriers from any location.

Also, Toshiba announced it will ship a range of products based on the IEEE 802.11b 11M-bps wireless LAN standard, the first of which will be a local area network (LAN) PC card and access point, available in the third quarter. The PC card is designed for use in Toshiba and any other brand of portable computers with a PC card slot.

The Bluetooth wireless technology may be a major force once products using it emerge onto the market, according to Riddhi Patel, senior analyst at Aberdeen Group. "Bluetooth won't change consumers' computer usage pattern; it's just going to make things easier," she said.

Toshiba announced in April its relationship with Wayport, an Austin, Texas, based wireless Internet service provider for airports, hotels and other public facilities.

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