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Canon's wireless vision is still undecided

News from Canon's Paris Expo - Bluetooth this, Bluetooth that. But when?

Canon is currently touring its technology around the world and its Paris Expo, on from today until 1 November, is all about wireless access to your photos. But most of the best looking products are still prototypes.

One cool camera that consumers might eventually see is a little digital camera with built-in bubble jet colour printer. This is basically the Polaroid instant camera without film. Canon doesn't know when this will come out in Europe yet, let alone how much it or its combined ink and paper cartridges will sell for.

Canon also demonstrated a Bluetooth-connected digital camera that actually works - until recently a rare occurrence in the world of IT. You can take pictures with the camera and store them in Flash memory, and then press a button on the camera and your (Bluetooth connected) printer will do the image processing and print out the image - no PC required.

Part of the reason these wireless consumer devices are still in pre-production phases is because Canon isn't entirely convinced that Bluetooth will be a successful home network technology. In Paris Canon is also showing off a DECT networking device, which in theory could be used in the same way as Bluetooth.

"We don't know which way we're going to go," said one exec. "We have to develop all standards because we don't know which way the market is going to go - Bluetooth can only go 10m."

But Canon senior managing director Ichiro Endo outlined a more determined vision. "Canon will adopt Bluetooth," said Endo. "I don't see DECT and Bluetooth as competing technologies." Endo explained Bluetooth is fast and needs a relatively cheap chip.

Bluetooth is an Ericsson-led standard for wireless networking. It can carry voice as well as data, but Ericsson has had a long struggle getting the industry to accept it as a winning formula.

Canon also admits online picture storage is still nascent - the infrastructure isn't there compared to the age-old process of taking your photos to Boots in the high street.

As well as cameras and the quite astonishing 3D stereoscopic screens on show at the Canon Expo there is a prototype of an integrated home photo and movie storage device, the iHS. This is a device that stores and displays digital photos and movies on a TV or monitor.

The iHS is also Bluetooth equipped, but of course Canon could change this to transmission technology DECT if it wanted. This is also only a prototype at the moment, as one of the Canon engineers on the project said the company is waiting for writeable DVDs, as opposed to the writeable CD-equipped machine at the show.


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