The wireless revolution is running late. By now the shops were supposed to be heaving with next-generation mobile phones and Bluetooth-friendly gadgets freeing us from the tyranny of the cable.
But, like 3G mobile, Bluetooth has been plagued by delays. Developing it, ensuring devices from different suppliers can inter-operate and reducing costs for mass production took longer than expected. Now, however, there are signs that Bluetooth has turned the corner. And researchers are seeking to expand Bluetooth’s potential further.
It matters that technologies such as Bluetooth succeed – not just because they are useful, but because entire industries depend on them. The unprecedented high-tech boom of the late 1990s was fuelled by a convergence of technology and cost-effective mass production.
Even those with modest incomes could afford a mobile or to connect to the internet, and they did so by the millions. Satisfying that demand created jobs for the engineers designing new handsets, the assembly-line workers building the finished item and everyone in between.
But now – at least in most Western markets – standard mobile phones are commodity items given away free, and the world and its grandmother owns a PC.
Electronics manufacturers are desperate for something – anything – to reinvigorate their products. The mobile handset market has collapsed and sales of PCs are stagnant. Even digital television has failed to set the world on fire, and currently only the DVD player seems able to get the cash registers ringing.
The electronics sector needs technologies like Bluetooth and 3G mobile to succeed, because they can excite consumers – and get them spending again. As for the delays, they may turn out to be no bad thing.
The peril of launching a half-baked wireless technology can be summed up in three letters: WAP.