The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has announced a novel approach to improve disappointing adoption of the short-range wireless technology – products that work out of the box.

SIG executive director Mike McCamon announced

the 5-Minute Ready plan at the Bluetooth Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday. A collection of tools will make it easier for manufacturers to deliver devices that work with minimal set-up required by the user, he said.

It’s a grass-roots directive that came from the membership of the SIG. “”We should be focusing on the user experience, not the technical details we always like to talk about,”” McCamon said in a telephone interview.

Bluetooth technology was hyped as revolutionary when the specification was introduced in 1998 by Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Nokia and Toshiba. But adoption has been light, McCamon admits.

Bluetooth “”was originally going to solve every 10-metre cable problem,”” says McCamon, a 20-year tech industry vet who was appointed executive director of the SIG in April. While there are 600 Bluetooth-qualified products and the technology is gaining ground among European consumers, there have been barriers to adoption among IT departments. Computer operating systems, for example, didn’t support Bluetooth until Microsoft launched Windows XP last year.

There’s also been “”a surprising amount of traction”” for the 802.11b Wi-Fi wireless LAN specification, though McCamon doesn’t blame that for Bluetooth’s disappointing take-up. He views them as complementary technologies.

Not everyone agrees. “”Traditionally, the two sectors were positioned differently,”” says Warren Chaisatien, senior telecom analyst with IDC Canada Ltd. But 802.11b is better capable of integrating machines with cellular technology for a “”truly seamless”” network experience, he says.

Stephen Howe, vice-president of technology development with Telus Mobility, says Wi-FI has crossed over into a lot of the Bluetooth market opportunity space, with a spiralling effect – more adoption means lower prices means more adoption.

Bell Canada – which is piloting a Wi-Fi-based public Internet “”hotspot”” strategy – has no significant Bluetooth plans, according to spokesman Don Blair.

Howe thinks the personal area network will be more ad hoc than integrated. “”I think the technology will be more niche than people thought,”” he says. He points to opportunities for Bluetooth in gadgets like wireless headsets for cell phones and other consumer markets.

McCamon says wider consumer adoption is the back door into enterprise use.

“”It’ll be more grassroots, coming from the user side rather than ordained from on high,”” he says, noting that PCs, PDAs and cell phones wormed their way into widespread corporate use the same way. That’s a good thing, he adds – users will have a better idea of how the devices can function in a business environment.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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