Number of Bluetooth Accessories Grows Sharply

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Until last year, Bluetooth was caught in a “chicken and egg” situation. Companies were uninterested in releasing Bluetooth-enabled handhelds because there were no Bluetooth-enabled peripherals and peripherals makers were unwilling to make Bluetooth-enabled peripherals because there were no Bluetooth-enabled handhelds.

Bluetooth Logo The logjam finally broke last year, as numerous handhelds were released with built-in Bluetooth. In fact, almost every high-end model released in the second half of 2003 had Bluetooth. This was because the “killer app” had been discovered: wirelessly connecting to a mobile phone for Internet access.

Now that there a plenty of Bluetooth-enabled handhelds, companies can see the advantage of making peripherals for them and a surprising number have been announced in just the last month.

Keyboard

Up until now, users have been unable to share a keyboard among most handheld models because of incompatible ports. 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.

Bluetooth, on the other hand, 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.

That’s why Think Outside has announced that it will be making a Bluetooth version of its Stowaway folding keyboard. This will be a full-sized keyboard that folds up to make it more portable. It is expected to be available sometime around late May for about $100. (Learn more about it)

Unfortunately, no company has yet announced a Bluetooth-enabled keyboard that can be used with both a PC and a handheld.

Mobile Phones

If there is a “killer app” for Bluetooth, it’s connecting a handheld to a mobile phone to check email and even surf the Web. Unfortunately, the number of Bluetooth-enabled handhelds in the U.S. isn’t as large as it should be and some wireless carriers offer almost no support.

Sony Ericsson T608 There was at least some good news recently. Sprint finally began offering its very first phone with Bluetooth, the Sony Ericsson T608. However, the device is available in limited quantities and must be ordered by phone. In addition, it is not available with Sprint service plans providing unlimited data access. (Learn more about it)

Fortunately, carriers using the GSM/GPRS standard have more options. For example, AT&T has long offered multiple Bluetooth-enabled options and recently announced that it will soon begin offering the Motorola V600, a cameraphone with Bluetooth.

GPS

Using Bluetooth to connect to GPS receivers is one of the more common uses for the technology. There are quite a few options on the market for both Palm OS and Pocket PC.

To add to this number, Navman has announced that it will soon begin offering the Navman GPS 4460 for Palm OS 5 devices. Features will include address-to-address routing, voice prompting, and maps of of North America, including Hawaii and Canada. (Learn more about it)

TomTom announced Navigator USA, a GPS application which coming soon to the Bluetooth-enabled palmOne Tungsten T3. (Learn more about it) TomTom already sells mapping solutions for Pocket PCs with Bluetooth.

Modem

Bluetooth 56K Modem Socket Communications recently announced the first battery-powered Bluetooth 56K modem. This can be hooked to a standard telephone line and allows a Bluetooth-enabled Pocket PC or Palm to wirelessly access the Web or email.

It will be available near the end of March and is expected to sell for $129.(Learn more about it)

Printer Adapters

Earlier this month, two additional Bluetooth printer adapters were announced that are usable by both Palm OS and Pocket PC models. These allow a Bluetooth-enabled handheld to print on a standard USB or parallel printer.

One of these, the Belkin Bluetooth USBPrinter Adapter, will be available soon for $100, while the other, the WindConnect II, supports more printer profiles and is available now for about $196. (Learn more about these)

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