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Motorola Unveils Bluetooth Strategy

In a further sign of the Bluetooth wireless technology's growing industry penetration, Motorola Inc.'s Motorola Computer Group unit Monday laid out plans to provide Bluetooth on embedded infrastructures running on three operating systems and two architecture processors.

The move is intended to give OEMs the ability to add wireless capabilities to stationary equipment -- not only to the printers and copiers which industry observers consider to be among the first areas in which Bluetooth will gain acceptance, but to medical equipment like MRI machines.

Motorola is already eyeing the medical market, envisioning diagnostic equipment equipped with Bluetooth which will allow patient information to be wirelessly transferred to the machines. Motorola said the use of Bluetooth can eliminate manual input errors while making the equipment more convenient for doctors.

"As these medical equipment and printer applications demonstrate, Bluetooth wireless technology goes way beyond traditional wireless networking," said Jorge Magalhaes, vice president and director of marketing, cross-industry business unit, Motorola Computer Group. "Simply put, our infrastructure solutions are the other side of your Bluetooth connection."

Motorola's Bluetooth-enabled embedded infrastructures will run on Linux, VxWorks and Windows 2000, and will be available on both PowerPC and Intel processors. The company is spinning the platform as a one-stop-shop Bluetooth solution for OEMs, enabling faster time-to-market, decreased material costs and increased revenue opportunities. It expects the first platforms to be available in early 2002.

"Our customers who are building equipment in the medical, printing and imaging markets see Bluetooth wireless technology as a competitive advantage and a way to set themselves apart in their industries," said Dr. Jeff Harris, director of research and system architecture, cross-industry business unit, Motorola Computer Group. "Over the next year, we will work closely with them to develop our platforms to their equipment specifications to help bring these products to market."

Motorola is not a newcomer to Bluetooth. Like Ericsson, Nokia, Intel, IBM, Microsoft, Toshiba and 3Com, Motorola forms the core of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG).

But while these companies represent significant industry support, Bluetooth acceptance is not without challenges. Cost is an issue. Bluetooth chipsets are currently hovering in the $20 price range, while industry watchers see $5 as the magic threshold. Also, in the data transmission area, the 802.11b wireless LAN standard outstrips Bluetooth; it can reach data transmission speeds of up to 11mbps.

But what Bluetooth lacks in speed it makes up in flexibility. Bluetooth creates ad-hoc wireless networks, allowing devices to seamlessly enter and exit the network.