Analysts: Cars will drive consumer Bluetooth adoption

Consumer adoption of the Bluetooth wireless technology will be driven by hands-free use of mobile phones in cars, not by PCs and cordless keyboards, according to a UBS Warburg LLC research report released Tuesday.

“We believe the catalyst for increased consumer penetration (of Bluetooth) will be in-vehicle hands-free communications devices,” says the report, whose lead writer was UBS Warburg Equity Research Global Technologist Weiyee In.

“We do think PC support of Bluetooth is significant, but when looking at consumers we feel that cars are strategically the important beachhead market,” In added in an interview on Wednesday.

Adoption of Bluetooth in cars, boosted by legislation curbing cell phone use while driving, could even spawn a whole new set of applications, according to In and his team. Cars may become part of a Web services connected world, benefiting Web services vendors such as IBM Corp. and Microsoft Corp., the analysts said in their report.

Bluetooth is a short-range wireless communications technology. It has been more hype then reality for years, but more and more devices supporting the technology are coming to market now and Apple Computer Inc. and Microsoft Corp. will support Bluetooth in their operating systems later this year.

Automaker DaimlerChrysler AG has said it will start offering a Bluetooth hands-free kit in the fourth quarter of this year. A DaimlerChrysler executive in a speech at the Bluetooth Congress in Amsterdam in June said in-vehicle, hands-free communications will be “the dominant application that will determine the long-term success or failure of Bluetooth.” In and his team attended the event.

The industry and analysts seem to disagree on what will drive Bluetooth. Kyle Martin, senior director of sales for Silicon Wave Inc., a San Diego-based Bluetooth silicon vendor, has said that Microsoft’s support will “open the floodgates to a host of Bluetooth applications.”

Still, The Bluetooth Special Interest Group Inc., an association of organizations working on Bluetooth products and applications, recently said it would be years before Bluetooth is as commonly used as a mobile phone.