Another 'The Death of Bluetooth' Article

Over at eWeek, they’ve published a fear-mongering article about the death of Bluetooth today. The article argues that Bluetooth (BT for short in this article) will be killed by UltraWideband (UWB) because Intel “shockingly” has chosen to go forward with UWB technology over Bluetooth. The author proposes this as if it were a surprise, but it isn’t a surprise at all (to informed analysts): It’s been discussed at length in Techdirt that Intel was backing one of two competing standards for UWB. When the two sides deadlocked, Mike wrote in Nov. 2003 that “one side will simply force through their plan as the de facto standard.” Since we’ve expected Intel to be a force in UWB for years, why should we change our positive outlook for Bluetooth, which we stated in July 2003? We remain comfortable in our stance that Bluetooth, though disappointingly slow to emerge, is on track towards a sustainable future. Why will Bluetooth survive in a world where Intel backs a UWB version of Wireless USB? Because of momentum, and the backing of other huge industry players such as Nokia, Motorola, IBM, MSFT, Agere, Toshiba, etc.

No matter what BT doomsayers say, BT backers should take some comfort in the fact that BT chip makers are now shipping over 1M chips per week, the chips now sell as low as $5/unit, and over 492 commercialized products use BT today, compared to 0 (zero) for UWB. Granted, there is no doubt that the Intel defection from Bluetooth harms BT’s prospects, but knowledgeable analysts have been aware of Intel’s participation in UWB development for some time, so they don’t need to revise their positions.

One reason the extreme title “The Death of Bluetooth” is dubious is the infamous journalistic turn-of-phrase, “If it bleeds, it leads.” meaning that blood, guts, and death always get more coverage, more airtime, and more notoriety for the journalist. I imagine “sexing-up” a headline to say “kill” increases readership, even if at the expense of veracity. Another reason the story is dubious is that the writer has long been alleged to be a Wintel shill – make your own opinion on that. I’ll just add him to the small group of analysts who keep saying Bluetooth is dead despite growth figures more impressive than the US national deficit.

The article author says, “Even Microsoft was slow to adopt it (BT) due to concerns about the standard. The company’s Bluetooth keyboard and mouse were a disaster.” Wow! That’s unusual, because usually Redmond is so quick to adopt outside innovations, and the 1.0 versions of their products are typically winners. Um, yeah. Perhaps MSFT would have sold more keyboards if they had priced them below $192. BT chips go for about $5 each, so that’s not the reason the keyboard/mouse cost about $110 more than non-BT wireless models.

If I seem overly vehement on this post, just bear in mind I’m trying to combat some powerful FUD, the flow of which is only just beginning. UWB and BT will probably acrimoniously coexist in the marketplace for the next 2 – 5 years. For the long term, I’m not predicting what technology will actually win. I agree UWB has incredible promise, but in order to “kill” BT, it has to first become more than vaporware, muddle through FCC clearances, work through its own bugs, then overcome a massive head-start. But that’s a much less sexy headline.

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