Bluetooth bites portable market

Bluetooth bites portable market

Most major PC manufacturers plan to incorporate Bluetooth wireless technology into their portable notebook PCs later this year, but Apple remains committed to Lucent.

Bluetooth is a form of wireless application protocol (WAP) technology, which uses low power radio to support wireless voice, data and video transmissions between portable computers and devices at distances up to 10 metres.

Toshiba, Acer and Compaq are just three of the major PC vendors that have announced plans to use the Bluetooth protocol, but Apple's corporate affairs manager, Myrna van Pelt, said Apple had no intention of doing the same.

`We are committed to the alternative which is Lucent,' van Pelt said. `It's a different form of wireless technology and it's the ratified standard. You would still need a modem off-site but not in an office environment because it operates in a 50-metre radius.'

Chee Mei Gan, the product marketing manager for Compaq's portable line, said Compaq would begin to release devices with a PC card option by the middle of the year.

`To start with, it will be an external device, but it will gradually be integrated into notebooks. We're investigating possibly incorporating it into selected Armada models. The timeframe is dependent on other vendors, because they need devices to talk to. It's not just computer to computer, but computer to other devices.'

Toshiba plans to launch its first Bluetooth-compliant devices before the end of 2000.

`Probably the first applications will be notebook personal computers, considering the size and cost of the chips,' said a spokesperson for Toshiba, Casey Ohmori.

Bluetooth will later be integrated into other devices such as mobile telephones, as the company develops the technology and shrinks the size of the chips, according to Toshiba.

Acer has also affirmed its commitment to Bluetooth. `It will be standard in notebooks from mainstream to high-end,' said Antonio Leone, Acer's product manager, portable PCs. `The advantage it will provide to customers is that it will simplify communications, particularly in the office environment, because you don't need a cable. It will reduce the total ownership cost.'

Lucent operates at greater distances to Bluetooth, but Compaq's Gan said Bluetooth offers greater flexibility.

`Lots of notebooks today offer infra-red technology, which requires the two devices to be in the line of sight. There are limits to the flexibility, but with Bluetooth there is no line of sight, because it uses a radio frequency,' Gan explained.

`It's a global specification and once it's ratified, everyone can use Bluetooth.'

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