How to address Bluetooth's braindeath: Market it better

How to address Bluetooth's braindeath: Market it better

Summary: The Bluetooth SIG -- the chaperone of Bluetooth Standards -- has come up with a series of icons that could potentially allay some of the confusion over what it takes for two or more devices with Bluetooth radios in them to wirelessly interoperate with each other.  They appear below.


The Bluetooth SIG -- the chaperone of Bluetooth Standards -- has come up with a series of icons that could potentially allay some of the confusion over what it takes for two or more devices with Bluetooth radios in them to wirelessly interoperate with each other.  They appear below.


Imagine if, when you bought a WiFi card, an Ethernet Card, or a computer or a PDA with networking built-in, and the manufacturers of those devices also said, "Oh, by the way, the way we've built this, the only thing you can do over the network is connect to a wireless keyboard and mouse." 

One reason the Internet works so well is because the end-points (like your PC) are free to run any application they want over the Internet's networking protocols.  In fact, they often run multiple applications simultaneously (browser, IM, VoIP, FTP, etc.). As protocols go, the Internet's are application agnostic. In other words, although one Internet protocol may be better suited to certain types of  connectivity than the other, there's no specific application functionality built into such Internet protocols as TCP/IP or UDP/IP. Even better, the physical radios used in both wired or wireless scenarios to modulate signals through copper or the air haven't a clue as to what's being pushed through them.

Using a straw as an analogy, no one tells you that the straw can only be used for a strawberry milkshake.  In fact, no one tells you that you have to use the straw to drink something. With the Internet's protocols, it's completely up to the end points (the brains on either end) to decide what goes through the "pipe" and how to turn what comes out on either end into something that's meaningfully functional. This versatility basically means that any end-point can interoperate with any other end-point provided they want to. They just need the right brains to do it.

In contrast, Bluetooth as a networking technology is brain dead. Based on the way Bluetooth-enabled products are sold today, the radios are tightly coupled to specific applications. OK. Some might argue this is brain-enabled.  In other words, whereas other networking technologies are of no mind and you basically have to add the brain that decides what to do, Bluetooth-enabled products come with their own brains. These brains are something that until very recently, the Bluetooth SIG -- the consortium that oversees Bluetooth -- referred to as "Bluetooth profiles."  What this essentially means is that just because you've purchased two Bluetooth-enabled products doesn't mean you'll ever be able to get them to work with each other.  For two Bluetooth-endpoints to interoperate with each other, they each needed to support the exact same profiles and even then, it's just a probability they'll work together. Not a guarantee, as many have found. Profiles exist for specific types of applications.  For example, there are different profiles for stereo sound, hands-free headsets (for telephony), printing, and input devices (like mice and keyboards). 

bluetoothicon.JPGThe net net to someone who buys technology products is that there's really no such thing as "Bluetooth compatible."  You can't just look for the Bluetooth emblem (pictured above left) on a smartphone and assume that it's going to work with everything else that has the same emblem.  This no doubt has been a source of confusion for buyers and frustration for users who unbox products thinking they're going to work together, only to find out they don't.  I've experienced this problem first hand multiple times.  For example, for the longest time, I wanted to be able to listen to stereo music with an Audiovox XV6600 Smartphone that I was using.  HP sent me its Bluetooth stereo headset to test with the smartphone.  The folks at the Bluetooth SIG assured me that even though the phone didn't come with support for the stereo profile, they could get me the software I needed to upgrade the device. It never happened.  As a side note, I just received a Motorola Q smartphone for testing and judging by its Bluetooth configuration screens, it supports the Hands-free, Personal Networking, Stereo Headset, and Keyboard input profiles.  More important (cutting to the confusion debacle at hand) is what it says on the box that the Q came in. On the front panel, it says:

Bluetooth Capable (for certain profiles)

Most people don't even know what a profile is.  But OK. Let's turn the box over to see if there are any details.  Sure enough, on the left panel, here's what it says:

The Motorola Q supports multiple Bluetooth profiles including: A2DP, wireless headset*, and handsfree** (Supports core specs 1.2 for headset and handsfree).  It supports the following object exchange (OBEX) profiles: OPP, FTP, BIP, BPP.

*Accessories sold seperately

**For car kit and accessory compatibility go to

Five things come to mind.  One, do you see that "1.2" part? It's critical. It could make or break compatibility.  Subtle houses of cards like this are a big problem.  Two, this isn't Motorola or VerizonWireless' fault.  Three, the Q isn't even listed on the Web page that the box refers to (that's VZW's fault).  Four, look at the other phones listed there and link through to the charts for one of them. Charts that list exceptions and that talk about what has not been tested, etc.  It's a compatibility debacle.  Five, I'm not making this up. 

Rather than quit while were so far behind that there's no chance of catching up, the Bluetooth SIG has now figured out a way to better market this brain death.  Instead of the highly nuanced language of "profiles," the SIG now refers to them as "Experiences" and, so that buyers may better identify where there's a probability of interoperability (not a guarantee, just a probability), the SIG has created the aforementioned new series of icons for some but not all experiences. Fore example, Dial-Up Networking (the profile-cum-experience that's necessary for a PC to wirelessly connect to a smartphone as though it were an Internet router) is missing. The idea is that, instead of listing all the techno-babble on the side of the box like the Motorola Q's box currently does, it can display icons associated with the experiences it supports.  Go to Best Buy, hold up two boxes, and if you see matching icons, you're in luck. 

Well maybe.

Topic: Wi-Fi

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  • Bluetoothlessness

    I bought a Moto 551v BECAUSE it had bluetooth and therefore would let my Zire 72 get online. Of course, it didn't. Motorola & PalmOne each blaimed the other. So, I sold both on eBay and got a Zire 650. Ah, internet access and I'm bluetoothless.
    • Re: Bluetoothlessness

      I learned the same lesson--you can only expect Bluetooth to work if you don't care that it's Bluetooth: you are buying the endpoints as an integrated kit (like a wireless keyboard kit) where it doesn't matter if they used Bluetooth or smoke signals.

      I too bought a Moto 551 because it had Bluetooth, and wanted to use it with my Palm T3. I was able to get it to work only because of the countless hours that many tenacious owners spent on the phone with Mot, Palm, and, most importantly, Cingular. I am very gratefull that they published their results on the web. It takes an astounding volume of otherwise unpublished information to get this combo to work--a long script of "AT" commands, passwords, etc. I was amazed that something that so many people would presumably want to do was kept so top-secret.
  • bluetooth brain death

    I will be sure to avoid all Bluetooth enabled products if I can
  • Maybe, Just Maybe .......................

    Maybe, Just Maybe they should stop all this nuances and redefine the protocol to work as expected not as they see fit.
    this is supposed to be a wire replacement protocol to allow me as a user to get a device ,that I used to connect with a wire to the other device, and use it wire free.
    thus it should just work provided that I have proper driver loaded( or the devices have drivers built into them ). since all it's doing is passing a commands between two points you would only need to create a specific profile to ensure that both devices can recognize each other and not cross-talk.

    i.e. mouse is Dev#12222 and keyboard Dev#3422333
    if I add another mouse it will be Dev#5696696 and thus treated as separate peaces of hardware with no confusion. just as it is happening now with USB. let the end point devices control the actions just like the network.

    Same mouse can work on any computer that it is connected to.

    simple, easy to use, universal.
  • Bluetooth is not really that Brain Dead

    David, you make a very valid point but are missing a very critical point.... The fixed profile approach lets you build very "dumb" end products without a processor and at much lower cost. There are no internet radio devices that you can wirelessly receive internet streams on that cost $30 I think. But there are plenty of bluetooth headsets that let you use your phone handsfree for $30. By tightly defining these profiles, you can make cheaper peripherals that only do one thing.

    Basically you can't have universal connectivity and cheap price. To be universal, you have to build a fairly complicated device at both ends. Wi-fi is a networking protocol, by definition in a network you are connecting two fairly powerful devices. Bluetooth is a cable replacement technology, nobody wants their wireless keyboard and headset to cost $300 each (which is about the minimum you will pay for a wifi enabled device).

    Linda Marroquin
  • Bluetooth - Enhancing the Experience

    It's an interesting perspective shared in your article about Bluetooth profiles / experiences.

    I particularly found the comparison to WiFi and Network setups amusing.

    I assume your network connection example of two devices had NO Firewall setup and NO Internet Security / Firewall included.

    I also assume there was NO encryption setup for your network example.

    In other words, you easy network setup you described was just that an example NOT a REAL Network setup for the common person to undertake.

    The example you gave therefore allows anyone to enter your network, load trojans, viruses and spy on your activities.

    I think you used the term "brain-dead" in your article and I see this setup you described as the normal process as just that.

    In other words, the example you used is not a "Real-Life" network setup example.

    You did describe the compatibility issues in Bluetooth and some are quite valid and current.

    In fact, today, you still cannot get any bluetooth device to connect to any (obvious) peripheral, additional drivers are needed and there availability and inclusion is somewhat confusing to the end user.

    That is changing through the guidance of the Bluetooth SIG and it is obvious you have also been stung by earlier Bluetooth connectivity issues.

    The Bluetooth icons however are a step in the right direction as they will ensure compatibility in the near future between matching icons on bluetooth devices and accessories.

    In contrast, I challenge you to show me a network of compatible devices or accessories that connect at SAME speeds (as described on the packaging), simply, across vendors, with security enabled and WITHOUT calling a Help Desk and having them do this for you.

    No, I didn't ask you to call your IT Department and find a Cisco, Microsoft, Netgear, D-Link, Belkin or other Network qualified and certificated expert to set up your network connections.

    In contrast Bluetooth DOES do this connection seamlessly and somewhat securely today.

    This can be done by any Joe Blow.

    Can Joe Blow do the same setup of WiFi and network peripherals as seamlessly? Without help, just a manual?

    These challenges I am describing are not limited to Bluetooth and Wifi networking, in fact similar issues exist even with standard printers.

    Vendors such as HP have complex issues with their "Top of the Line" Multifunction Centres such as the globally available consumer targeted HP PSC 3110 that has compatibility issues connecting "out of the box" with Microsoft XP Home Edition.

    You see HP engineers designed their bundled imaging management application with .Net that certain files on PCs sold by PC vendors (including HP Compaq models around the world) without necessary Microsoft files needed in XP Home
    (Note: these files ARE available in XP Professional).

    To overcome this you need to download from "somewhere" on ther Microsoft website (HP Support can't tell you where exactly these files are). Most of the files needed are Developer files ( I counted five in total - including Visual Basic Runtime, MFC and others).

    I urge you to try pressing the Scan button on the PSC 3110 connected to a PC running Microsoft Windows XP Home with no Microsoft updates (simulating a typical PC user) and let me know your experience and the added feedback and support from HP Call Centres.

    I haven't even asked you to try using this HP printer on a network yet (giggles as knows the outcome).

    You see politics between Microsoft and major vendors such as HP have limited and disadvantaged consumer purchases of entry level systems.

    Unfortunately, politics often limit progress with new standards and roll-outs and may have hindered faster progress in Networking and Bluetooth standards too.

    My point is simple, while I welcome your feedback and perspective, I do ask you consider what your readers interpret from your comments and in future ask you present information on progressing technologies such as Bluetooth icons and networking without prejudice of selective past experiences especially when progress is being made and can easily enstill further fear not confidence
    such as in this case.

    I am sure you too, like me have tried setting up early generation networkable (or not workable in my case) internet sharing network routers, networked hard-drives, ethernet cards and other network products with security enabled and a great deal of frustration until you got technical support to walk you through (or did it for you).

    Bluetooth SIG have been working hard to iron out the challenges you described and I believe WILL soon have this sorted.

    Our company like others are working to improve this Bluetooth "experience" that granted does take time to iron out and perfect.

    Our company focuses on Bluetooth input drivers and whilst there has been some confusion in the market over Bluetooth Input, Bluetooth SIG's new icons will ensure that a keyboard, mouse or other input device that has the Bluetooth Input icon DOES comply with the Bluetooth HID standard and customers using HID drivers such as ours on keyboard offerings by companies such as Frogpad, Logitech, Microsoft and many others, will be compatible.

    In fact you can use Bluetooth HID standard drivers such as our HID2GO family to connect any Bluetooth HID compliant device to PDAs and Smart-phones seamlessly.

    The Bluetooth icons will ensure that future Input devices will work "out of the box", something that has plagued the Bluetooth input devices too as cowboys in the industry found loopholes in standards and took shortcuts and pushed serial input devices with NO Security, No quality of service management nor proper, formal compliance testing with vendors and Bluetooth SIG conformance testing.

    Would you use a Bluetooth device to type knowing someone could be watching? Bluetooth HID limits this, most current Bluetooth Serial devices do not.

    Whilst I understand your frustration with Verizon and Motrola Q device, I do believe that these examples will be non-existence once the Bluetooth icons are implemented by all Bluetooth vendors.

    I believer the industry is finally moving forward and both WiFi and Bluetooth are progressing well and I urge you to take an open mind to new standards and connection options as you have in your re-collection of early network issues.

    I look forward to your comments and consumer feedback on points raised as we all are aiming to improve and not hinder their experience with these devices.

    Christian K
    cc2GO Wireless Technologies