Bluetooth gets chipped by unreal expectations

The Bluetooth wireless protocol had a bit of its enamel chipped off last month when Microsoft announced that its upcoming version of the Windows XP operating system will not support devices running the much-touted standard. The folks in Redmond maintained they were still a staunch supporter of Bluetooth and will continue to be a key player in its development. Nevertheless, the announcement is the latest evidence that the protocol is not gaining as much of a toehold in corporate environments as many of its proponents had predicted.

Microsoft said the reason for the move was that, quite simply, there weren’t enough Bluetooth-enabled devices on the market that could take advantage of any drivers that would be built into the operating system (which is slated for release later this year). Microsoft is essentially in the same position as a grocer who has just bought a fleet of shopping carts but hasn’t had any food delivered by his suppliers. Why bother putting them out?

With Bluetooth products just now trickling into the market, it appears that the protocol is just the latest example of an industry that is fond of letting hype overshadow practical realities. Last year, Bluetooth supporters were predicting that by now we’d be seeing a steady influx of the devices into corporate environments, to help facilitate simple short-range communications traditionally carried out over bulky and space-gobbling cables. Some of the main targets for the protocol were in the printing area and in the connecting of personal digital assistants (PDAs) to cell phones.

It appears, however, that most organizations are too busy making other changes to their IT infrastructures to worry about implementing a potentially better way of printing. For a technology as new as Bluetooth to be implemented as quickly and as widely as many of its supporters had been predicting, it has to be near-mission-critical. The corporate extranet, for example, not so long ago began to be viewed as something that had to be a part of an organization or else the organization would cease to exist. Hence their ubiquity today.

Bluetooth is a different story. Make no mistake, the advantages it offers are real, and as a result, it stands a good chance of becoming a big part of enterprise environments. Is a business in danger of being liquidated by its competitors if it doesn’t implement Bluetooth devices tomorrow?

Hardly. And that is one reason why we’ll just have to ignore the hype and wait for Bluetooth to grow in at its natural pace.