There is mounting evidence that Palm Inc. intends to release a Bluetooth SD card that is compatible with Palm OS 5.
Palm has been offering a Bluetooth SD card for handhelds running Palm OS 4 for well over a year. When Palm released its first model running Palm OS 5 late in 2002, the Tungsten T had this short-range wireless networking standard built right in, so it didn’t matter that Palm’s Bluetooth SD card wouldn’t work with this handheld. However, last spring the company released the Zire 71 and Tungsten C, which do not have integrated Bluetooth. This left these models with no Bluetooth options.
The Bluetooth SD card is physically compatible with all these models, but the software driver works only with Palm OS 4 models. Though users have asked for OS 5 versions of the driver, the company said several months ago it had no plans to develop this.
But it is beginning to look like Palm is developing a new Bluetooth card that is compatible with Palm OS 5. A Zire 71 user reports in the Brighthand Forums that a Palm tech support person answered a recent request for a Bluetooth SD card for his handheld by saying, “Please be assured that our engineers are very hard at work and are preparing a Bluetooth(R) card for the Palm Zire 71 handheld. As of now, I am not in a position to comment on the release data of the Bluetooth Card.”
Of course, tech support people from every company are infamous for having incorrect information about their company’s plans for upcoming products. However, Brighthand sent a request for a confirmation to the company. A spokesperson responded by saying that Palm’s tech support people have been instructed to no longer mention this product and that she couldn’t give any specifics about it, including when it might be available. But it is significant that she didn’t deny that there was such a Bluetooth SD card in development.
A Smaller Card?
Palm’s current SD Bluetooth card is 1.95 by .94 by .08 inches, which is almost three quarters of an inch longer than a standard SD memory card. This makes it inconvenient to use with most handhelds, as it sticks out quite a bit. Generally, most people only insert the card when they plan to use it, rather than usually keeping it in the slot, because of the risk of accidentally breaking the card.
However, last fall Toshiba unveiled a next-generation Bluetooth SD card that is 1.6 inches long and lacks the bulge that is on the end of the current one. This is still longer than will fit inside of SD slots but is a marked improvement. In addition, Toshiba says the smaller card uses 50% of the power of the previous one, which uses 100 mA, with a maximum of 150 mA.
In addition to marketing this card itself, Toshiba is offering it to other companies who can write drivers and other applications for it, then market it under their own brand names. This is the arrangement under which Palm Inc. sells the current version of this card. It’s possible that the Palm OS 5-compatible card Palm is working on will be a rebranded version of this one.
Of course, Toshiba isn’t the only company developing these cards. Unigen announced a Bluetooth SD card at the Consumer Electronics Show in January and Hagiwara Sys-Com said last spring it was working on one. Palm could have licensed a design from one of these companies or developed one itself.