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IBM portables to go wireless by mid 2001

But future for Bluetooth not so rosy

IBM plans to integrate support for a fast-emerging wireless LAN (local area network) technology in all of its commercial notebook computers by the end of the first half of next year.

The computer giant will include support for 802.11b, a standard that allows for wireless local area networking at speeds of up to 11M bps (bits per second), with all its notebooks sold to business customers by mid 2001, according to Fran O'Sullivan, general manager for mobile computing with IBM's personal systems group.

Various notebook vendors including IBM have said they will implement the wireless LAN standard throughout their notebook lines eventually.

But IBM's plan to include the technology in all of its business portables within seven months reflects the pace at which major notebook vendors are pursuing wireless technologies.

O'Sullivan was less bullish about Bluetooth, another wireless standard that will allow devices like notebook computers, mobile phones and handheld computers to communicate with each other in PANs (personal area networks.)

The technology has great promise and IBM is a big supporter, but Bluetooth is moving more slowly and won't be adopted in IBM's products as quickly as 802.11b, she said.

"I suspect that before you see it integrated into every notebook in the industry we'll need to see it in more devices out there," O'Sullivan said. "You don't want to put a lot of functions into systems that aren't going to be used right away."

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