Ericsson Ends Bluetooth Design and Manufacturing

Ericsson have halted their Bluetooth design and manufacturing work. Some are heralding this as the end of the short-range communications standard, but it is simply an indicator that the standard has matured – the standard does not require more development work and the chipsets are commodity items. Ericsson, the inventor of standard, will continue to offer Bluetooth features in their new phones, but will leave the manufacturing of the chipsets to high-volume chip manufacturers – and there are are already many making the sets.

Ericsson, with transfer the 125 staff working on Bluetooth to other divisions of the company, though will remain a member of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group.

Bluetooth has always been more popular in Europe than in America – only 10% of Bluetooth shipments are in the US, opposed to 65% in Europe (source: Wireless Watch).

Bluetooth is now so widely adopted that it can be left in the hands of other companies to thrive, but it is clear that Ericsson do not believe there will be a next iteration of the technology. There are new technologies on the way – particularly ZigBee, a low-power, low-data rate radio frequency communications standard, designed with a much wider remit than Bluetooth in mind. ZigBee is intended to operate in consumer electronics, PC peripherals, home automation and industrial control applications.

Although Bluetooth has failed in many of the areas it intended to tackle such as automotive communications, the standard still has plenty of life left. Microsoft’s Windows XP SP2 has radically improved support for Bluetooth and with no immediate replacement, it’ll be with us for a while yet.

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?