RealTime IT News

Compaq Finds a Way to Support Both 802.11b, Bluetooth

When Compaq Computer Corp. announced its new Evo line of workstations and notebooks earlier this week, it may have found an aesthetic and ergonomic way around a major, new bone of contention.

The new line will be armed with MultiPort, an optional, snap-in wireless solution whereby users can plug a module into the USB-interface that fits flush against the notebook display with no extending antenna. It makes the new machines look as if they were built for the wireless age.

But apart from its aesthetic good looks and hassle-free functionality, it also allows the user to move back and forth (if needed) between the 802.11b and Bluetooth wireless specifications depending on the modules that's plugged in.

"Intersil is thrilled that our PRISM technology is a part of Compaq's new approach of adding built-in wireless capability to notebooks," said Larry Ciaccia, vice president and general manager of Intersil's PRISM Wireless Products business.

Intersil, the Irvine, Calif.-based silicon technology developer that stands on the verge of establishing the faster 802.11g specification, is enabling the IEEE 802.11b-based WLAN MultiPort module using its PRISM technology. The Bluetooth MultiPort module is enabled through a single-chip Bluetooth solution called BlueCore, developed by CSR of Cambridge, England.

Note, however, that even though both 802.11b and Bluetooth can exist on the same device, that doesn't mean they can co-exist in the same environment. But courting both 802.11b and Bluetooth still makes for smart business, especially given the amount of uncertainty surrounding the two specifications. Both standards operate within the FCC's unlicensed 2.4GHz spectrum but do cause significant interference with one another.

In fact, Intersil was one of 13 companies that petitioned the FCC on Oct. 25, 2000, to ensure that Bluetooth's frequency-hopping technology doesn't interfere with 802.11's predominant method of data transmission, known as Direct Sequencing Spread Spectrum (DSSS) systems. But Compaq's modular solution really ends that great debate. Corporate users will stand ready to adopt whichever prevailing standard wins over their chief technology officer.

Intersil wasn't alone in helping Compaq develop the WLAN adapter card. Intel and Celestica also participated in the collaborative venture. Each team member brought silicon, hardware, board design and software expertise to the project.

The 802.11b-based MultiPort module will be priced at $189 while the Bluetooth module will have a suggested retail price of $199.