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Easy wireless nets promised in Bluetooth bonanza

Range to be boosted to 100 metres

Bluetooth, the short-range wireless networking technology, is edging its way into the computer mainstream in the form of add-ons for notebooks, personal digital assistants, phones, and desktops. It has one simple promise: no-brainer connectivity between devices.

Whether consumers and businesses will find that promise an exciting one isn't clear. But as demonstrated this week at the Bluetooth Developer's Conference, that isn't stopping the development of all kinds of Bluetooth-enabled products.

Bluetooth PC Cards will be among the first products that come to market and will let you wirelessly share a presentation or files between notebooks. Down the wireless road, Bluetooth could replace your printer cable.

Although only a few Bluetooth PC Cards are available today, Intel, 3Com and Motorola are planning (and showing) USB adapters that will bring Bluetooth to the desktop in the first quarter of 2001.

3Com also unveiled a Bluetooth Access Point, a device that provides a fixed interface for up to seven Bluetooth-enabled devices to connect to a network.

Expected to be available next summer priced around £300, the access point could be used in offices, airports, or other networked public places. Many users could get wireless access to networks through a single Access Point.

Because it has a high-power radio, the Access Point also increases Bluetooth's range from 10 metres to 100m, says Steve Parker, product line manager at 3Com. "That also makes it a little higher cost."

Demonstrated during the ‘Bluetooth day in the life’ keynote speech, access points could also be used in a home to allow multiple users to surf the Net at the same time on different devices.

While PDAs can use Bluetooth to synchronize with notebooks and desktop systems, Bluetooth's real benefit is its capability to use a phone as the PDA's wireless modem. Add-ons are in the works for Pocket PCs, Palms and Visors, but their release depends on the availability of Bluetooth phones.

Nokia announced its first Bluetooth product, the Nokia Connectivity Pack, at the conference. It brings Bluetooth to Nokia phones in the form of a special battery.

Expected to be available in this country in early 2001, the Connectivity Kit includes a Nokia 6210 phone with battery and a CompactFlash Connectivity card with a PC Card adapter. Nokia says the phone will offer high-speed data exchange of 43.2Kbps (kilobits per second) over GSM.

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