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This is a specification, developed by a consortium that includes IBM, Ericsson, Nokia, Intel, and Toshiba, for a radio system that allows electronic devices to communicate with each other over short distances without connecting cables. Some 1,200 companies pledged to support this new format when it was first announced, including giants like Microsoft.

It has been a buzzword in the computer industry since late 1999, and in its early days it seemed certain that the format would become universal, most commonly in portable computing devices and cellphones. One research firm in late 1999 predicted there would be 61 million Bluetooth-equipped appliances by 2003. Typical implementations would be for a hands-free (and wire-free) headset linked via Bluetooth to your mobile phone in your briefcase; immediate password access to your office through automatic sensing between Bluetooth appliances; or automatic data transfer between computers, say in a meeting. However, the slow-down in high-technology fields in 2001 has meant that take-up has been much smaller than originally expected, and other systems, like Wi-Fi, are competing head-to-head with Bluetooth.

The consortium named it after the tenth-century Danish king Harald Bluetooth, who united warring factions.

Any Bluetooth device can talk to any other, no matter what brand name is on the label or what software forms their operating systems.

Arizona Republic, Nov. 1999

I’ve nothing against the concept, but to date Bluetooth appears to be a triumph of marketing over product fulfilment.

PC Magazine, Feb. 2002

Page created 8 Jan. 2000
Last updated 5 Jan. 2002

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World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 5 January 2002.