Despite a rocky start, Bluetooth devices have finally begun to trickle out-not a lot, but enough that you can actually get rid of a few cables here and there, which is the ultimate benefit of Bluetooth.
Hewlett-Packard's Deskjet 995c inkjet is one of the first printers with integrated Bluetooth, and Ericsson's R520 mobile phone is one of the first to ship with a built-in Bluetooth transceiver. But other high-end phones, like Motorola's new Timeport 270c, gain connectivity through simple add-ons. Similarly, TDK Systems' Blue5 clip-on adds Bluetooth to Palm V and Palm Vx handhelds, while its Bluetooth USB Adaptor lets a PC receive data from up to 150 feet.
Compaq, IBM and Toshiba are early adopters among notebook vendors. IBM's ThinkPad models accept Bluetooth UltraPort Modules, Compaq's Evo Notebook N600c includes a multipurpose port for either Bluetooth or 802.11b modules, and Toshiba puts both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi silicon on the motherboards of its Tecra 9000 and Portï¿½gï¿½ 4000 Series notebooks.
Actually, just about any portable with an available Type II PC Card slot can become Bluetooth-enabled with cards from early players like 3Com, Motorola or Xircom. A Bluetooth PC card synced fine on an older Tecra 8100 I used for a test bed. I simply added the card to a Type II slot, turned on the portable and installed the drivers. Upgrading the Motorola Timeport 270c cell phone was as easy as replacing the battery panel with a same-sized Bluetooth adaptor for a net gain of no weight or size.
The final step is to arrive at a secret handshake for your devices, so other devices can't access yours without your OK. You'll find a new Bluetooth Neighborhood icon on your Windows desktop, where you can set up a password.
After that, whenever you come back from a trade show or a business trip, you can sync new phone numbers, notes and other information in your phone with similar files on your desktop. It works the other way, too, when you're about to leave the office.
As with all new technologies, early Bluetooth products are expensive. But as volume ramps up, prices will fall. You also have to consider how much time you spend syncing data and how much your time is worth. If you do a lot of outbound work, Bluetooth might save you money. Besides, it's easy to use and, actually, kind of fun.
Mike Hogan is Entrepreneur's technology editor. Write him at email@example.com.
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