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Bluetooth nibbles at wireless market

The radio technology will be making a slightly smaller splash in the wireless-networking market than previously expected, according to new projections.

Bluetooth will be taking a slightly smaller bite out of the wireless-networking market than previously expected, according to new projections.

Shipments of devices using the Bluetooth standard will grow from less than 15 million this year to 955 million units in 2005, Cahners In-Stat Group analyst Joyce Putscher said in the report released Wednesday.

However, the estimates in the current report are nearly one-third lower than those in last year's report, in which Putscher projected shipments to hit 1.4 billion units in 2005.

Bluetooth is a short-range radio technology that allows portable devices, such as personal digital assistants (PDAs), cell phones and notebooks, to communicate within 30 feet of one another without wires.

The lowered estimate is the result of the delay among manufacturers in getting products to market and of the U.S. economic slowdown, Putscher said. Manufacturers apparently have been overly optimistic as to how long it will take to develop products and how much it will cost.

Putscher still expects strong growth for Bluetooth, however, because it can be used in a number of ways and devices.

"The six to eight month delay in shipping, as well as the economic situation, factored into the readjusted figures. But Bluetooth lends itself to so many different applications and so many popular devices, such as phones, PDAs and notebook PCs," Putscher said.

The growth is expected despite the delays in getting products to market, as well as a few failed demonstrations of the technology--most notably at this year's CeBit trade show in Germany. The product delays have even resulted in the technology's exclusion in Microsoft's upcoming operating system, Windows XP.

Products using the Bluetooth standard should be hitting the market very soon, Putscher said, and the first trials are already appearing in hotels, shopping malls, golf courses and airports.

"Trials are already underway in the executive lounges of certain airlines, allowing travelers to access the Internet, and in hotels, allowing guests to register, pay and even open the door to their room using their PDAs," Putscher said.

Putscher also expects that, even in 2005, people who use Bluetooth will do so via cards and adapters. But gradually, she said, the wireless standard will be integrated into devices themselves.

The Bluetooth standard has the backing of some big names in the technology world, including 3Com, Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Lucent, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia and Toshiba. This support, Putscher said, practically guarantees some sort of a market presence in the future.