Consumer Bluetooth on the way this year

Parthus optimistic about nagging Bluetooth issues

The current generation of Bluetooth devices may be buggy, but software arriving later this year will solve problems such as incompatibility, according to mobile Internet company Parthus.

Parthus, based in Ireland, specialises in intellectual property for mobile Internet platforms, and on Wednesday announced its biggest publicly-announced licensing deal so far, with Japanese electronics giant Hitachi. Under the deal, Hitachi will license key components of Parthus' BlueStream Bluetooth platform, to combine with its own designs and manufacture in Hitachi Bluetooth products.

But Parthus admits Bluetooth is not yet up to standard, even though products have been on the market for several months. Some vendors have said products will take another 12 months to be ready for the mass market, for example making sure devices from different manufacturers will connect seamlessly.

The Radiocommunications Agency has also reported that Bluetooth could be hampered by interference from wireless LANs, which reduces connectivity to two metres.

Parthus is optimistic, however, that consumer-grade Bluetooth will be on the market soon. "The big issue is things like interoperability," said Barry Nolan, vice president of marketing for Parthus. "That stuff has to roll out pretty seamlessly [for consumers]. And all that will be sorted out prior to launch. It will not be a WAP scenario all over again, with a product being hyped and getting consumer expectations to an unrealistic level for products that can't deliver."

Nolan said Bluetooth interoperability is "90 percent there".

Parthus claims to have licensed the BlueStream platform to five of the top semiconductor manufacturers, but Hitachi is the first it has publicly announced. Bluetooth recently began to appear in add-on options for notebook PCs, and peripherals that support the standard are already commercially available.

The technology was invented by mobile phone maker Ericsson to replace the cables connecting handsets to its accessories, but Bluetooth is expected to be used in everything from automobiles to PCs to stereos. Industry analysts Cahners In-Stat forecasts that 1.4 billion Bluetooth devices will be in use by 2005.

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