Swedish software maker Pocit Labs says it has created the world's first Napster-like file-swapping software for mobile devices that communicate using so-called Bluetooth technology.
The software, called BlueTalk, is expected to make its debut in June at the Bluetooth Congress 2001 in Monte Carlo, Monaco. Although no deals have been signed yet, Pocit Labs Chief Executive Christer Rindebratt said BlueTalk could make its commercial debut by 2002.
The software, Rindebratt said, will let up to 54 people at a time trade files, play the same games, or use any of 50 other proposed software applications on wireless devices.
Pocit Labs is the second company to say it's working to bring peer-to-peer networking to handheld devices. In January, Irvine, Calif.-based Endeavors Technology announced it successfully tested a peer-to-peer application on Compaq Computer's iPaq handheld device.
Peer-to-peer is a form of computing in which people allow their stored data to be shared by anybody. Napster is its best-known application, with an estimated 64 million users trading music files.
But peer-to-peer has spread beyond music. Scientific research firms have also begun using peer-to-peer as a way for colleagues in different parts of the world to collaborate. Some universities, including Stanford, have their own peer-to-peer networks for students to use. There are also several search engines in development using peer-to-peer architecture.
With Napster exploding as a service for PC users, entrepreneurs are trying to extend the technological underpinnings of the medium to the wireless Web.
Analysts have mixed opinions about whether peer-to-peer for wireless devices will come close to the explosion of file swapping on the wired Web. Napster says it has 64 million users. Its many offspring, including Gnutella and Freenet, also say they have customers in the millions.
A home PC connected to a high-speed line, or even to a dial-up connection, is far better for memory capacity, download speeds and viewing capabilities than any handheld device, said Jupiter Research analyst Joe Laszlo.
Laszlo also pointed out that Bluetooth itself already enables some of BlueTalk's applications, such as the "airport lounge" scenario in which executives could use BlueTalk to turn an airport waiting area into a networked room.
"There is a difference between jumping into peer-to-peer because it's trendy (and) developing a product that just happens to work through peer-to-peer," he said.
Bluetooth software allows electronic devices within 30 feet of each other to share information. It was developed in 1998 and is backed by companies such as Intel and Ericsson. It was introduced with hopes of infiltrating every type of device. Analysts expected it to be on store shelves by the end of 2000.
But the technology is just now showing up as an add-on for laptop computers and in a few high-end cell phones. Chipmakers started full production of the components needed for Bluetooth in fall 2000.
The software is named after Harald Bluetooth, the Danish king who unified Denmark and Norway in the 10th century.