USB may come to rival Bluetooth wireless technology after Philips announced a new chip that allows devices with USB ports to be directly connected yesterday.

The 'USB On-the-go' chip is designed to connect devices such as digital cameras, audio players, printers, mobile telephones and handheld computers, chip maker Philips said.

The chip can function as a USB host as well as a USB peripheral, removing the need for a PC as the go-between.

The chip, scheduled to go into volume production in the second quarter of 2002, supports the USB 2.0 specification, which allows transfer speeds up to 480Mbps (megabits per second), Philips said.

Connecting devices with a USB cable could become an alternative to the Bluetooth wireless technology that is making its way into mobile phones, notebook computers and consumer electronics devices. USB is much faster than Bluetooth, the first version of which exchanges data at a maximum speed of 1Mbps.

Philips intends to launch a whole series of USB On-the-go products, but the company did not specify the price of the chip, nor which manufacturers, if any, have shown interest in incorporating the chip into their products.