Comdex '99: Wireless imaging tools a way off

If wireless networks are the next big thing, why aren't Agfa, Ricoh or Canon getting into the fray?

The benefits of a wireless network might seem obvious to ZDNet readers, but ask the likes of Ricoh, Agfa or even Canon when they expect to include Bluetooth into their products you'll draw a blank.

At Comdex Fall '99 Monday, a quick tour around the major digital imaging companies revealed that the benefits of zapping digital information between gadgets will probably be confined to the mobile phone companies and their partners.

Ericsson and Nokia are principle members of the Bluetooth SIG (Special Interest Group) and have ample peripherals lining up for launch during the first half of next year. "Don't expect digital cameras, scanners or printers to get Bluetooth anytime soon" says Marsh Jackson, business manager at Silicon Valley's Cadence Design Systems. "We're working with several PC and phone manufacturers. As far as Bluetooth is concerned, phones are the centre of the universe."

Consumers will start using Bluetooth by the summer of next year, but despite the promise of a world bereft of messy cabling and awkward docking ports, the first iterations of the technology will be no more spectacular than ordinary infrared networking.

Although no one will say so on record, Microsoft's absence from the SIG could be the reason why most peripheral manufacturers have chosen not to support the technology. "Of course it would be nice to have them involved," says Warren Allen, senior program manager to the Bluetooth SIG at Toshiba. "I'm sure if they were to adopt it, others would follow."

One spokesman at a major peripherals manufacturer, who requested anonymity, says it will be Summer 2001 before consumers get anything like the sexy functionality Bluetooth offers. "Getting a digital camera to send images over Bluetooth or having an MP3 player firing off music to a PC or other device is a ways off yet," says the spokesman. "The problem with these companies is they have no guts. They won't do a damn thing without Microsoft's say-so."

A Microsoft spokesman confirms the company is "looking into the benefits of Bluetooth".

Take me to the Bluetooth special