Psion heads for Bluetooth spotlight

UK computer maker to supply wireless connection technology to PC maker

Psion (quote: PON) hopes a deal announced Thursday with NEC Computers International will boost its profile in the market for the cutting-edge wireless technology Bluetooth, giving it access to the installed base of Europe's sixth-largest PC maker.

Bluetooth, which lets PCs and other gadgets connect wirelessly to peripherals and each other, has not yet made a big impact, but is projected to be built into everything from mobile phones to cars. At its simplest, it is designed to eliminate the wires that link mobile devices, but it could also become a revolutionary way to access the Internet and carry out mobile transactions.

Under the NEC deal, Psion Connect, Psion's connectivity division, will supply products such as PC cards for laptops and USB hubs for PCs to NEC, which will market and distribute them to commercial and consumer customers. Psion will later offer Bluetooth embedded in mobile devices, the company said.

The deal is a boost for Psion's long-awaited Bluetooth products, giving them more exposure, and helping the company compete against rivals such as Motorola with Bluetooth products already on the market.

Psion said its long development time will ultimately mean it brings better products to market. For example, the products are all based on the recent Bluetooth 1.1 standard, which should iron out many compatibility problems -- many products already on the market use the 1.0 standard. "We are more interested in getting the product right than providing a second-rate solution quickly," said Tom Wright, chief operating officer of Psion Connect. "There are Bluetooth solutions available at the moment, but there is no real takeup."

More Bluetooth gadgets are expected to emerge this year, but many still believe the standard is not ready for a full commercial release.

NEC stressed the mobile possibilities for Bluetooth. "Bluetooth-enabled devices will redefine the way we communicate, especially while travelling. The products that we are jointly announcing today will set industry standards for quality and ease of use and will help establish Psion Connect and NEC Computers International as Bluetooth market leaders," said Serge Palaric, director of mobile product lines for NEC Computers International, in a statement.

Psion Connect, formerly Psion Dacom, will begin offering Bluetooth products in the second quarter. Psion's Bluetooth processor partner is Cambridge Silicon Radio, which has recently received new venture funding for its Bluetooth projects.

Psion shares rose following the news Thursday, up 8.75p or 4.72 percent to 194 by 3.50pm GMT.

Soon all your digital devices could be talking to one another, without wires. Find out how with the Bluetooth special

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