The growth of the Bluetooth 'wireless wire' is likely to be hindered by a rapid take-up of IEEE802.11b in wireless lans. This will force Bluetooth into being a cable replacement and not, as its backers hope, a basis for public access networks.
A recent report by Forrester Research concludes that Bluetooth access points will be more expensive than those based on 802.11b because it needs a higher installation density.
But author Lars Godell says the two wireless standards could co-exist, even though many of those interviewed by Forrester had no plans to build in support for Bluetooth, while half said they had already run trials with 802.11b.
A number of technology suppliers favour the 802.11b wireless lan for public access networks.
Michael Barkway, business manager for wireless designs at Tality, said: "802.11b has already taken a share of the Bluetooth market. Hotels and airports [in the US] have gobbled that up.
"It must be worrying for the Bluetooth guys that 11b is pushing down the price curve. It could be difficult for them to catch up if 11b captures the mindshare and costed becomes more aggressively."
He added that, while Bluetooth backers put a lot of effort into profiles, 802.11b has just one, TCP/IP: "But if 11b adopts the profiles, it could take over from Bluetooth."
Via Technologies, the PC motherboard maker, expects to put support for 802.11b into future products. Richard Brown, its marketing manager, said: "Bluetooth was overhyped. It is going back to being a straight cable replacement."
He says that, while Bluetooth might ship in a number of systems, it may not get used for some time and only on a limited basis: "For years, we were shipping USB and, for Bluetooth, it will be the same."
Qualcomm has started volume shipments of a CDMA2000 chipset that includes a Bluetooth baseband that may not be activated by OEM customers. It works with a simple RF front-end and uses a small amount of extra logic, according to Johan Lodenius, the company's senior vice-president of marketing and product development.
"Bluetooth makes more sense when we move to 3G," he said.