Mobile Bluetooth Keyboard Coming Next Year

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Think Outside has pre-announced its Stowaway Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard, an upcoming Bluetooth-enabled Stowaway keyboard for use with compatible smart phones and handhelds.

Bluetooth Logo Like the rest of the Stowaway line, this will be a full-sized keyboard that folds up to make it more portable.

Though the company has made this initial announcement, it didn’t say exactly when this product will be released or what it will cost. However, it is expected to be available in the first part of 2004.

Think Outside makes the Stowaway line of folding keyboards, which are some of the most popular on the market.

Why a Bluetooth Keyboard Is Necessary

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 handheld and smart phone 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.

This problem has been partially alleviated by using infrared to communicate between the handheld and the keyboard, but this isn’t an ideal solution, because the infrared ports on the two devices must be kept constantly aligned.

However, an increasing number of handhelds and smart phones come with Bluetooth short-range wireless networking. This was designed from the beginning to allow computers to connect to their peripherals without wires and without requiring a constant line-of-sight connection. This means Bluetooth is well suited to allowing a variety of handheld models to connect to a single portable keyboard model.

Nevertheless, a Bluetooth Keyboard presents some design challenges. For example, it can’t draw power from the handheld and therefore must have its own battery. And Bluetooth is a not-inconsiderable power drain.

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