My Bluetooth Life

If you are like me, you just hate the sight of unwieldy wires clogging up your desk space. Who really needs a tangled mess when you can have wireless connectivity, especially Bluetooth wireless connectivity? In an effort to de-clutter my desk, I have adopted the technology almost completely.

A lovely Linksys router I picked up for mere $20 on Craigslist provides Internet connectivity, and my personal area network is completely Bluetooth. Nary a cable in sight, barring the power-cable and a lamp on the tiny table which doubles as workspace and dining surface.

Thanks to my lovely new digital hub, the Apple PowerBook (15.2 inch), gone from my desk is the monitor, the wired USB mouse, and of course the keyboard. I use a Microsoft Bluetooth mouse, just because it has two buttons. The crystal white Apple Bluetooth mouse sits meekly in the box, waiting a day when I decide to give up the creature comforts of a two-button mouse. My Epson printer communicates harmoniously with my PowerBook via a 3Com Bluetooth printer kit. My phone, the Sony Ericsson T610 when I need to send out SMS messages (mostly to my brother in India), behaves like a go between the warring Maliks! The HP/IPAQ 4150 whispers in my PowerBookÌs ears via a Bluetooth ActiveSync connection provided by wonderful software from Mark/Space. (HP/IPAQ 4150 is perfect PDA Ò both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled and has accompanied me on two trips, and with the help of a keyboard, I have been able to leave my PB at home. I am hoping that soon I will be able to acquire a GSM card to connect to this device and let go of the phone.)

Admittedly this was an expensive way to get rid of the cables, setting me back by a cool $4000, but it was well worth it. Infact the arrangement is so perfect, that I have no need to upgrade digitally for next 12-months. Santa, of course will bring me the goodies next Christmas. (Still lusting for a Treo 600, but waiting for a Bluetooth card that would work with my set-up.) But despite the high cost, I think the Bluetooth network is well worth it. Aesthetically I feel the same satisfaction Steve Jobs must feel when he looks at the PowerBooks, IPOD and his monitors. (Never mind Fast Company, they really never believed in the cult of Jobs!)

So why have people not adopted Bluetooth more actively? Or have they? Gartner estimates that 161 million Bluetooth equipped products will ship in 2003; 362 million in 2004. (Click here to read the latest stats on Bluetooth.) ThatÌs a lot of devices. But here is some more data: Bluetooth chipset shipments worldwide Ò 11.2 million in 2001; 33.8 million in 2002; projected 100+ million 2003 and 1.1 billion by 2007 (representing $2.54 billion) according to data from Allied Business Intelligence. Now lets compare it with Wi-Fi Ò ABI reports that the Ïshipments of chipsets are set to hit 23 to 25 million units this year, up from 7.9 million in 2001.

The reason I compared the two numbers is because, somehow reading the newspapers, and especially the trade publications, I get this impression that Bluetooth is going to go the way of Chevy Nova. It leads me to draw one simple conclusion: Bluetooth is suffering from a PR problem, more than anything else. National Semiconductor announces plans to develop a tiny Wi-Fi chipset to replace Bluetooth and it gets tons of news coverage. But Bluetooth suffers in silence. In the early days of Bluetooth, when 1.1 specs were in place, getting the devices to talk to each other was difficult. Trades lamented that Bluetooth interfered with Wi-Fi.

Well that has changed with the new specs, and we have been assured that there will be no interference, and the devices communicate really well with each other. Of course one is still waiting for Microsoft to provide native OS support for the technology, but at least the Apple faithful have access to this most wonderful technology.

Clearly, there is no spending $250 million on promoting this technology. IntelÌs misinformation campaign has put Wi-Fi in driverÌs seat. Intel, when and if it will start making Bluetooth chips, will put some money to work there, definitely subsidizing it with all the profits it sucks in from its microprocessor business. BluetoothÌs chief proponents Ò cell phone companies, automobile companies, and chipmakers do not have the monopolistic pricing power to literally throw quarter-of-a-billion dollars on promoting Bluetooth technology. Hence the image problem with the technology! Hopefully, by adding a new category on my weblog, I can keep you posted on the latest developments. Of course, as always I love to get your comments, tips and thoughts.