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.