Ericsson Halts Bluetooth Development


Ericsson recently said it will discontinue design and development of new Bluetooth products for the semiconductor industry. The company will, however, continue to offer the technology through its Ericsson Mobile Platforms subsidiary, according to a statement on Ericsson's Web site.

"The standard has now reached a mature state and Bluetooth products are being produced in large volumes. However, even though large volumes are manufactured the business case for Ericsson's design of new Bluetooth solutions is not strong enough," the statement said.

The Stockholm, Sweden-based company is reorganizing its Bluetooth operations, a move that calls for the dismantling of licensing outfit Ericsson Technology Licensing. The company instead is forming a dedicated Bluetooth unit to support its current semiconductor manufacturer customers.

The company also said it will continue to support the technology as a member of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG).

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Industry observers say Ericsson's jump out of the development effort does not signify Bluetooth's death. It does indicate that Bluetooth--a standard for short-range radio technology enabling point-to-point communication between devices--is taking a backseat to network technology such as Wi-Fi.

Calling Bluetooth "overhyped," Mark Schratz, senior vice president of business development at Tolt Technologies, Gig Harbor, Wash., said the technology is not widely used among the solution provider's customer base.

"The only time it's really ever used is literally to eliminate a cable, like when you have a portable printer on your belt that you're using with a mobile device," Schratz said, noting that the technology has found its strongest appeal among Tolt Technologies' vertical market customers.

Schratz said Bluetooth's future value comes into question with the convergence of mobile devices and mobile networks.

"I don't know what role Bluetooth will play," he said.

Bluetooth is being overshadowed by other wireless technology, such as Wi-Fi and ultrawideband, said Allen Nogee, principal analyst at In-Stat/MDR. Still, Nogee doesn't expect Bluetooth to disappear.

"[Hardware manufacturers] seem to be saying that it's kind of like a check-mark item, just as laptops have infrared even though most people don't use it," Nogee said.

In a statement, Bluetooth SIG--whose members include IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Motorola and Nokia--said other members of the Bluetooth community are continuing its development.

"While the business case for some Bluetooth SIG members, in some areas of development, will be affected by competition within their market and the maturity, market share and saturation of products, Bluetooth wireless technology and its 3,000 member manufacturers will move forward creating the foremost personal area network standard and products for connecting and sharing," Bluetooth SIG said in its statement.

In June, Bluetooth SIG said more than 150 million Bluetooth-enabled units had shipped to date, and that worldwide shipments of products with the technology now exceed 2 million units per week.