Belkin to unveil Christmas Bluetooth line

The manufacturer promises to make Bluetooth more affordable with a new set of products, including laptop and PDA add-ons

Belkin is to unveil a set of Bluetooth wireless add-ons for desktop and laptop PCs on 7 November, as Bluetooth continues to emerge as a mainstream technology for connecting peripherals, handheld computers and mobile phones to computers.

As a maker of low-cost, mass-market connectivity gear such as USB hubs, broadband hubs, surge suppressors and uninterruptible power supplies, Belkin's entry into the Bluetooth market is the latest signal that the wireless technology is seen as accessible and stable.

Apple and Microsoft have announced support for Bluetooth in the companies' Macintosh and Windows operating systems. Microsoft is planning to sell Bluetooth keyboards and mice, and Logitech is already selling some Bluetooth peripherals.

Belkin said that its own initial lineup would include a Bluetooth USB adapter, adapter cards for PCs and handheld computers, and a Bluetooth headset. In the PC world, Bluetooth is commonly seen as a wireless replacement for USB. It is also a convenient way for laptops and handheld computers to connect to the Internet via a mobile phone.

Market researcher IDC predicted that the Bluetooth semiconductor market would grow to $76.6bn (£49bn) in 2006 from $2.6bn last year. IDC expects widespread Bluetooth adoption to begin next year.

Still, incompatibilities, security and other problems are expected to cost consumers and businesses $5.6bn a year, according to Gartner. The market researcher expects consumers and businesses to purchase 560 million Bluetooth-enabled devices by 2005.

Bluetooth has found its way slowly into peripherals and mobile devices, though it is not yet found in many PCs. Hewlett-Packard last year released a Bluetooth-enabled printer, and plans to ship another; the DeskJet 450. IBM sells one notebook with Bluetooth -- the ThinkPad X30 -- and Sony sells a Bluetooth-enabled Vaio. Most Pocket PC and Palm OS handheld computers can get Bluetooth with an add-in card, but few have it built in, which analysts say is key to the technology's success.

Motorola sells Bluetooth mobile phones, as does Sony Ericsson with the stylish T68i. HP sells a Bluetooth version of its Pocket PC handheld, the iPaq 3870 and 3970 handhelds, and Palm plans to start selling a new Bluetooth model in October.

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