By Kate Mackenzie, 25 Jun 02 SWEDEN
Wireless ERICSSON insists its wireless standard, Bluetooth, is about to come of age after a disappointing wait for products using the system.
The buzz around Bluetooth began in the late 1990s with excitement over possibilities for hot spots and access points.
Helped by the catchy name, it was expected to provide some revolutionary marketing opportunities for retailers and various service providers.
"We were really good at building up the hype in 1998-99. Then there was a year of disappointment," Ericsson Bluetooth marketing director Johan Akesson said.
In the meantime, the vision for Bluetooth has changed.
Mr Akesson said the focus would be on connecting devices rather than communicating with public access points.
There was not a turnaround on the access point approach, he said. In the early marketing of the system there were about 15 case studies of which only "one or two mentioned hotspots".
"That has not been abandoned. There are many access points where you can connect a phone or a PDA," Mr Akesson said. "However we at Ericsson have focused on the LAN."
Since Bluetooth 1.0 was released after collaboration with Intel, numerous other companies, including key rival Nokia, have joined Ericsson to turn its concept into a de facto standard.
Cahner's In-Stat Group predicted 36.8 million devices would be available this year, and the level would rise dramatically to 126 million in 2003.
Most of those devices would be mobile phones and, by 2006 it is believed 75 per cent of all new mobile handsets will be Bluetooth-enabled.
Mr Akesson said the price of a Bluetooth chip would need to drop from its current levels of between $US5 ($8.95) and $US15.
"To get down to really low-end, high volume, it probably needs to be below $US3," he said.
Ericsson was submitting part of the Bluetooth standard - the specifications for the link layer and the MAC layer - to the IEEE for standardisation, but the company was not interested in getting formal approval for all of Bluetooth, Mr Akesson said.
"We believe market requirements are easier to take up as an informal process," he said.
"This approach meant Bluetooth was approaching widespread deployment after just four years, compared with almost 10 years for the wireless IEEE 802.11 standards," he said.