Bluetooth: it's the litigation, stupid

Bluetooth's success in mobile phones is part of an unusual legal strategy from phone vendors, according to leading Bluetooth chip vendor CSR
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor
Mobile phone manufacturers have been rushing to install Bluetooth in their handsets in an attempt to avoid being implicated in deaths caused by car drivers using their mobiles, according to the head of the world's leading Bluetooth chip maker.

John Hodgson, chief executive of Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR), told journalists on Tuesday that litigation fears are driving the deployment of Bluetooth chips in mobile devices.

"Legislation is creeping forwards. I'm surprised it's not growing faster," said Hodgson, adding that some US states have already introduced legislation forcing car drivers to use hands-free systems.

The UK government passed a law late last year that means drivers who hold a phone at the wheel risk a fine.

The preferred work-around for this is to use Bluetooth headset that links wirelessly to the phone, meaning the user need not take their hands off the wheel to receive a call -- although the UK government recommends that drivers pull over to take or make phone calls in any case.

Hodgson claimed that manufacturers are being encouraged by their legal advisors to add Bluetooth to their product ranges so that can't be dragged through the courts for not doing enough to prevent the dangers of using a mobile while driving.

"I know of a pre-eminent Silicon Valley lawyer who is being dragged through the courts, along with his company, because this man killed someone [while driving]," said Hodgson.

According to CSR's chief executive, mobile manufacturers hope that by adding Bluetooth, they can "demonstrate in court they've done what they can".

In its latest financial results, revealed on Tuesday morning, CSR showed that in the third quarter of 2004 it increased its revenues by 32 percent to $77.7m. The company's Bluetooth chips were used in 47 percent of all Bluetooth-enabled devices shipped in the quarter, as well as 60 percent of all Bluetooth devices designed in the quarter.

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