Bluetooth products race to market is on

The race to market with the first Bluetooth devices is on with the Danish firm Digianswer taking an early lead, promising Bluetooth-enabled PC cards and USB adapters by February 2000.

Hype surrounding the wireless technology -- which will allow communication between digital devices -- has been growing since the final technical specification was announced this month. The deadline for the spec, originally intended for release in March has slipped and the final version is published on the Bluetooth Web site today.

Digianswer is the first to announce shipment dates for Bluetooth products. PC cards, retailing at around £90, will be available by February and Bluetooth-enabled headsets will go on the market in the second quarter. Digianswer is in negotiations with PDA and PC manufacturers to bring the cards to market. No details were given but sales and marketing manager, Ultan O'Raghallaigh, hinted that Palm V will be among the first wave of Bluetooth capable products. Initially headsets will be aimed at call centre operators rather than for individual consumers.

Research and development manager at TDK, Nick Hunn, promised PC cards and USB adapters by March. By the summer TDK will be launching Bluetooth adapters for both home and office use. "Basically it will be a box which you stick in the wall. In the office it will allow you to connect to your network remotely and at home you will be able to access your modem to get on the Internet," he said. "You will start to feel connected wherever you are."

Hunn pointed out the adoption rate of Bluetooth will depend on two things -- the availability of silicon and cost. "There is not a lot of silicon around at the moment. Ericsson has a chip but it is expensive and, from a technical point of view, leaves some things to be desired," he said. TDK is using silicon from an unnamed US chip firm and Hunn claimed it would be the first to provide a single chip solution for Bluetooth devices.

Initially the add-on cost for incorporating Bluetooth into devices is estimated at around £18 but it is expected to fall to around £3 by next winter.

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