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Commentary: A race with two winners

Bluetooth and 802.11 are vastly different technologies and vary in how they are used, and there's plenty of room for both.

By Phillip Redman, Gartner Analyst

Bluetooth and 802.11 are vastly different technologies and vary in how they are used, and there's plenty of room for both.

See news story:
Bluetooth has lost, says Intel executive
Bluetooth, still in the development stages, will be a cable replacement technology used to connect devices such as laptops and printers and for ad hoc networking between devices. Its counterpart, 802.11, in use for years, is a wireless Ethernet technology--a true internetworking LAN technology--that offers higher speed, better range and tighter (although flawed) security.

Users will adopt both technologies based on their application needs. Already there is a large uptake of 802.11 in large businesses, while Bluetooth is on the back burner. Gartner advises those businesses to wait until at least the second half of 2003 before investing in Bluetooth technology.

Bluetooth will likely become pervasive as a cable replacement technology. Although its first iteration will not likely succeed, the technology will be integrated into billions of devices by 2007. Stores may commonly use Bluetooth for financial transactions. The technology will not likely be relegated to a niche.

For enterprise networking, 802.11 is the wireless standard, and 802.11b, used for in-building extension of wired LANs, will likely emerge as a public network in population hotspots for higher-speed wireless networking. But 802.11 costs more than Bluetooth and consumes more power, which prevent it from being integrated on all mobile devices.

Machines of the future will be designed with many communications options. Some may be better than others, but people will choose the best option available based on speed and cost. If users are in an area that has Bluetooth but not wireless LANs, they'll use Bluetooth--just like they'll use a modem if they have no other option. Most Internet connections, meanwhile, will likely remain on a wired network.

(For a related commentary on security and wireless technologies, including Bluetooth, see

Entire contents, Copyright ? 2001 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.