NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article
Wireless Headset Is First To Meet Bluetooth Standard
by Ken Fermoyle, Ken's Korner, January 2001
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You may or may not have heard the name "Bluetooth" in the past, but you are sure to hear it a lot in the future. Reason? Bluetooth is expected to be the jumping-off point for a giant leap forward in wireless communications.

To understand why, you need only recall the story of the Tower of Babel. Inability to communicate stymied its builders. That's been true of wireless communication devices. Until now. An industry-wide Special Interest Group developed the Bluetooth standard to ensure interoperability between wireless devices such as cellular phones, computers, and PDAs (personal digital assistants).

Nokia, Ericsson, 3Com, IBM, and Lucent Technologies are among the more than 100 companies that make up the Bluetooth Special Interest Group.

Interestingly, a small New Hampshire company beat mobile phone biggies Nokia and L.M. Ericsson out of the Bluetooth starting gate. GN Netcom has announced one of the first officially qualified Bluetooth devices, its GN 9000 Bluetooth wireless headset. Now a new headset might not seem like a big deal, but releasing one of the first Bluetooth devices is a "milestone" both for GN Netcom and for Bluetooth technology, according to Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek, the director of marketing communications at GN Netcom.

The product underwent the extensive testing required by the Bluetooth Qualification Body to ensure interoperability with the standard, Boockoff- Bajdek said. This is a crucial step, because "the success of Bluetooth as a standard hinges on interoperability," she said.

The headset will require a Bluetooth host device -- either the base station, which GN Netcom sells, or a Bluetooth card for a PC or PDA -- to operate. When such a device is present, the GN 9000 Bluetooth headset will offer users a mobile range of up to 30 feet (900 centimeters). The device will retail for $299, and a package including the base station and headset will cost $499.

Though this price level puts it out of the reach of small office/home office (SOHO) users, which includes most Ken's Korner readers, I agree with GN Netcom's Boockoff-Bajdek that the headset is a significant milestone. It is the harbinger of things to come, the "first robin" of a wireless communications spring, as it were.

We must put the cost into context, notes Paul Mahoney, the director of product marketing at GN Netcom. The idea of Bluetooth "is to allow [the consumer] to use a single device instead of six or seven," he said, adding that $299 for a single product is not expensive compared to buying multiple items for multiple devices.

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