One problem that has bedeviled the handheld community almost since its beginning has been that each manufacturer uses a different port for connecting peripherals. Even worse, some manufacturers have different ports for different models. This means that users have little hope of using, for example, a single keyboard on two handhelds made by two different companies.
Though it took years, desktop and laptop makers finally settled this issue with standard plugs and standards like Universal Serial Bus, or USB. But handhelds makers have yet to cooperate in this regard; each has stubbornly stuck to its own connectors, and there's never been serious talk of picking a standard.
Finally, there is a light at the end of this tunnel. Not because handheld makers have had a sudden change of heart, but because more and more handhelds are coming out with Bluetooth short-range wireless networking built in. With Bluetooth, a hardware connection between a handheld and peripheral is unnecessary.
Almost certainly, the area where there is the greatest need of Bluetooth is keyboards. These are expensive, frequently costing close to $100, and rarely usable on more than one handheld model.
At the Consumer Electronics Show, the Korean company Flexis announced the fxCUBE-Bluetooth, the first keyboard that has been designed to connect to a handheld with Bluetooth.
The fxCUBE-Bluetooth was only announced a few days ago and details on it are still sketchy, like an exact release date and a price. However, it is known that it will be a flexible model like the company's other products, capable of being rolled up and stored away.
Of course, this won't be the only keyboard of this type. Belkin is working on a Bluetooth-enabled keyboard that should be available around May of this year, though it declined to give any details at this time. Targus is also working on one, though it also was unwilling to give any details.
Pocketop, maker of a wireless keyboard that works over infrared, says it expects to have a Bluetooth version by the first quarter of next year. According to a company spokesperson, developers are dealing with problems related to conformance with the Bluetooth accreditation system and battery life.
Think Outside, maker of the Stowaway folding keyboard and the 800-pound gorilla of the handheld keyboard market, says it is investigating the possibilities but isn't willing to disclose any firm plans.
Hopefully, people will soon be able to spend money on a peripheral with the reasonable hope that they will be able to still use it when they have to change handhelds.
This may actually turn out to be one of the most important uses for Bluetooth. Using it to get rid of the wires on a PC is convenient, but allowing one keyboard to work with any Bluetooth-enabled handheld is a major improvement.
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