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It's In The Air

Laptops and palmtops talking without wires? It's Bluetooth inside.

Bluetooth" may sound like a dental problem, but it's actually becoming one of the industry's favorite buzzwords. And you won't find it at CompUSA or Outpost.com (at least not yet). But according to the official Bluetooth Web site (www.bluetooth.com), you'll see it built in to "hundreds of millions of electronic devices" before 2002. So what is Bluetooth? It's a communications protocol that allows wireless transfer of data between devices-from cell phones to laptops to PDAs, and back again.

What's really driving Bluetooth is who's involved. Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Lucent, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, 3Com and Toshiba are considered its chief promoters, and they've signed up over 1,600 other companies as adopters.

The advantage of Bluetooth will be seamlessly integrated communications among electronic devices, both large and small. You'll be able to give commands to desktop PCs from cell phones, and PDAs will be able to talk to laptops-all without cables. Before long, you'll be dialing up a fresh cup from the Bluetooth-enabled coffee pot in the office lounge using your PDA or PC. Backers plan to install Bluetooth in everyday electronic devices, too.

PCI cards and USB adaptors will be available to retrofit your machines and avoid compatibility problems. Bluetooth signals the dawn of what is being called the Personal Area Network (PAN); and while the Bluetooth Web site has been sketchy about product delivery dates, expect them by the end of the year.

As for the name, Harald Bluetooth was a viking king who united Denmark and Norway, just as Bluetooth technology intends to unite electronic devices.

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This article was originally published in the July 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: It's In The Air.

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