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True Blue

Are Bluetooth hardware add-ons worth it? Take a bite from each one, and see for yourself.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the August 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Ah, Bluetooth, we knew you when you were being called the latest and greatest innovation in wireless technology. You were going to bring devices and their data together within short ranges. You were going to be everywhere, from supermarkets to office buildings. Well, Bluetooth, you haven't really exploded like the hype suggested. But you have been quietly growing up and making low-key appearances in a slew of devices, ranging from mobile phones to PDAs to printers.

We've rounded up a sampler plate of Bluetooth hardware add-ons. It's a hodgepodge of devices, but that's just a testament to the variety of uses the technology is finding. Bluetooth works in the 2.4GHz spectrum at ranges under 10 meters and can transfer data at rates of up to 721Kbps. It acts as a complementary technology to a Wi-Fi wireless network solution and can help keep your portable equipment connected on the go.

Bluetooth isn't a necessity for every entrepreneur, but it makes more and more sense as more and more Bluetooth-enabled devices seep into the market. It does take some investment to really enable your business, so it's particularly suited for companies with a high percentage of laptop- and PDA-carrying workers. For example, when employees can pop into the office and print straight from their notebooks without plugging in, they're saving time and increasing productivity. The Epson Bluetooth Print Adapter lets you do this with any compatible Epson printer. Belkin and 3Com also make printer-related devices. Of course, you'll also need a device like the $89.90 Belkin Bluetooth PC Card to set up the laptop if it doesn't already have the capability built in.

Bluetooth adapters aren't just for laptops. A USB adapter-like the $64 (all prices street) Mitsumi Class 1 USB Adapter Model WML-C51APR-K-can be hooked up to a desktop computer to allow data exchange with portable devices or a printer. A variety of adapters are available for many Palms and Pocket PCs currently on the market. These may come in the form of an expansion card, like the $129 Palm Bluetooth SDIO Card. Often, they are specific to a particular model or models, so check with the manufacturer to see what's available.

Not every business is going to need or want to equip their computers with Bluetooth. But the technology's ability to make wires disappear finds a use in certain niches. One of the hottest niches is mobile phone headsets. If you've ever used a wired headset on the go, you know how they can get tangled or snagged. An add-on like the $99 Jabra FreeSpeak Bluetooth Headset uses Bluetooth for hands-free and wire-free phone operation. They also have a $179 model designed for phones that don't have built-in Bluetooth capabilities. It's in creating these small-but-important conveniences that Bluetooth can excel.

In the same vein, Logitech takes the tail off the mouse and makes presentations easier with the $200 Cordless Presenter. It keeps you untethered from the computer you're making a presentation on. This is particularly handy for a sales force that works extensively out on the road and is looking to make a good impression on potential customers.

To really get a handle on all the Bluetooth products that are out now, visit the technology's official Web site at There, you'll find an extensive list of products as well as general news and information.

Shopping List
Sifting through all those Bluetooth add-ons can put anyone in a tizzy, so check out these first. you might like what you see.

Bluetooth pc card
(800) 2-BELKIN
Pcmcia card adapterWorks with most laptops$89.90
Bluetooth print
adapter c1200bt
(800) GO-EPSON
Print adapterAttaches to printer parallel port$129
Freespeak bluetooth headset
(800) 327-2230
Mobile phone headsetFor bluetooth-enabled phones, up to 30-foot range$199
Cordless presenter
(800) 231-7717
Mouse/presentation toolbuilt-in laser pointer, optical mouse$200
Class 1 usb adapter
Model wml-c51apr-k
Usb adapterPlug-and-play,folding design$64
Bluetooth sdio card
((800) 881-7256
Pda adapterCompatible with certain palm models$129

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