UK chipmaker ships 10-millionth Bluetooth chip

Cambridge Silicon Radio says that Bluetooth is now a mainstream technology, but others argue that usability problems are increasingly hampering the technology's growth
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR) said it has shipped its 10-millionth Bluetooth chip, the latest indication of the wireless technology's gradual rise into the mainstream.

However, Bluetooth's ongoing success is increasingly being called into doubt by questions about its usability.

UK-based CSR says its BlueCore chips, which integrate a Bluetooth system into a single piece of silicon, are found in about 60 percent of all officially recognised products using the Bluetooth v1.1 specification. Bluetooth systems from some other chip designers use multiple chips, which can be more expensive but more flexible for product designers as well. CSR licensees include HP, IBM, Logitech, Microsoft, Motorola, Siemens and Sony.

"This landmark is important because it demonstrates both that CSR is delivering in high volume and Bluetooth is an established production technology already shipping in higher volumes than 802.11b Wi-Fi," said CSR chief executive John Hodgson in a statement.

Bluetooth is a low-power, short-range wireless technology designed to replace the cables that currently connect headsets, handheld computers, mobile phones, PCs and other devices. After a slow ramp-up, it is now built into many mobile phones, but has yet to make much headway in the PC world, where most PC and laptop users must still buy a separate attachment for Bluetooth functionality.

Some competing technologies have seized upon this gap to provide their own similar, but incompatible, alternatives to wireless cable replacement, among them Zigbee and WirelessUSB.

Zigbee's 250Kbps technology is slower than 802.11b (also known as Wi-Fi), at 11Mbps, and Bluetooth, at 1Mbps, but it consumes significantly less power and chipmakers say Zigbee chipsets will be much cheaper than those for Bluetooth. WirelessUSB is similar to Bluetooth, but doesn't require new software drivers for devices that already support wired USB.

Bluetooth is increasingly hampered by the difficulty in setting up connections, a fact recognised by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), which at the beginning of this year called for product makers to ensure that setup takes less than five minutes.

Connecting Bluetooth headsets to mobile phones is already simple enough, but the user interfaces in Bluetooth laptops, printers and digital cameras are far too complicated, the group argued.

Separate the hype from the reality at ZDNet UK's Bluetooth News Section.

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