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3Com Puts a Little Bluetooth in your Printer

It has been a long time coming for Bluetooth, at least in the U.S. But a line of products based on short range wireless technology named after a 10th century Danish King has still got some cards up its sleeve.

Apparently Santa Clara, Calif.-based 3Com thinks so, and Monday announced its first attempt to parlay Bluetooth's sought after technology into a Wireless Bluetooth Printing Kit aimed at small office/home office (SOHO) users.

Bluetooth technology, in particular version 1.1, is a wireless communications standard that connects PCs, cell phones, handheld devices, printers, and the Internet based on tiny transmitters designed for wireless communication between various computing devices at distances of 30 feet and more.

Bluetooth came into public awareness with a big splash three years ago as the future wireless solution for home and corporate offices. But issues of incompatibility and high prices drove many consumers away.

Bluetooth 1.1 however, is a more affordable and compatible version of its earlier self and now offers modules for connecting Palm and Pocket PC devices, cell phones, Macintosh and Windows desktops and laptops, printers, and in some cases camcorders.

Its first Bluetooth-based package for SOHO users, 3Com's Wireless Bluetooth Printing Kit enables SOHO users to wirelessly connect desktops and printers without all those pesky cables, and with an ease-of-use that just might catapult Bluetooth into the mainstream.

3Com's printing kit provides an interface called the Bluetooth Connection Manager that simplifies the process of installing 3Com software and makes it easy for SOHO users to download new features as they become available.

Priced at $250, the kit comes with a 3Com Wireless Bluetooth USB Adapter and a 3Com Wireless Bluetooth Parallel-Port Printer Adapter, with an option of purchasing a separate Bluetooth PC Card for laptops, instead of using a USB adapter. 3Com's Printing Kit also ensures connectivity between a printer and PC or laptop of up to 32 feet indoors.

According to In-State/MDR, 3Com's new Bluetooth products earned a high rating for a "very good to excellent user experience."

"The products that will take the Bluetooth market by storm will offer a simple, familiar, intuitive user interface, quick and easy setup, combined with chat, printing, and additional applications that consumers find compelling, productive, and fun," said Joyce Putscher, director of In-Stat/MDR's Converging Markets and Technologies Group.

There are many companies currently working to make In-Stat's projection a reality.

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) is a Bluetooth consortium made up of some of the biggest names in the telecommunications, computing, and networking industries. SIG provides a forum for companies to work on the development and interoperability of Bluetooth-based products and includes a growing membership of companies like 3Com, IBM, Ericsson, Microsoft, Nokia, Toshiba, Intel, Agere, and Motorola.

"The Bluetooth wireless initiative continues to thrive, both in the introduction of consumer products and the equally important area of development tools and components," Michael McCamon, chairman of the Bluetooth SIG marketing committee said in a statement. "Developers have responded favorably to the stability of the Bluetooth wireless specification and together we are tracking towards our ultimate objective of providing users with an easy-to-use, standardized means for wirelessly connecting their electronics products."

Some of the most recent Bluetooth products emerging on the market include a Bluetooth-enabled cash register by Toshiba that wirelessly accepts coupons from Bluetooth cell phones. Toshiba also recently came out with a Bluetooth Pocket Server that communicates with other Bluetooth-equipped computers and peripherals. Kenwood is working on Bluetooth stereo headphones. Microsoft is reportedly making plans to release a cordless, battery-powered Bluetooth keyboard and mouse later this year. TDK Systems recently launched three new software applications for its 'go blue' range of Bluetooth products. And many big name car companies may soon adopt a universal hands-free cell phone holder in every car.

All 3Com wireless Bluetooth solutions are fully interoperable with all standards based on Bluetooth devices.