TI Behind Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Convergence

Hewlett-Packard this week is touting the first handhelds that enable local and very local networking at the same time.

HP’s iPAQ Pocket PC h4150 and iPAQ h4350 ship with short-range Bluetooth and mid-range 802.11 wireless capabilities. HP launched the two PocketPCs on Sunday at the ITU Telecom World trade show in Geneva as part of a broad array of mobility offerings.

While the Palo Alto, Calif.-based computer and printer maker publicized the new iPAQs’ Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities, the announcement omitted mention of Texas Instruments , the provider of the chip that lets Bluetooth and wireless LAN coexist. TI’s Bluetooth/WLAN coexistence package provides wireless data connectivity for the devices and lets users employ both at the same time. The new HP iPAQs are the first PDAs to utilize TI’s coexistence package.

HP’s omission of TI in its product launch release may have been an attempt to divert attention from past compatibility problems between WLAN and Bluetooth, according to Gartner analyst Todd Kort.

“I think as far as HP is concerned, having Bluetooth and wireless LAN is the message,” Kort told internetnews.com, “and they weren’t concerned about the two tripping over each other. That’s been a problem in the past.”

The TI Bluetooth/802.11 coexistence package was designed for mobile devices like PDAs and handsets, where the interference problem is magnified by the close proximity of the chips. TI’s design criterion was that that no RF radio isolation should be required. The design features a coexistence bus that runs between the WLAN and Bluetooth chips, running in real time on the MAC Layer , which dynamically adjusts to the traffic patterns on the devices. At the same time, TI designed the chips to use as little power as possible, particularly when in standby mode, another crucial issue for handhelds, in which the life of the small batteries can make or break a product.

TI pointed out that the coexistence package would let users synch a mobile device with a laptop while they checked email or used the Internet. Kort said this wasn’t exactly a huge breakthrough. Still, he said, “It’s comforting to know that if you are ever in that situation it’s not going to be a problem.” He said a bigger step forward was the built-in keyboard that comes with the h4350 model.

But the product releases are a breakthrough for TI. “It’s a feather in their cap to be the first to deliver a solution and get it adopted by HP,” he said. “That’s a nice stamp of approval.”

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