Misunderstanding Bluetooth & WiMedia

A new story over at Newsfactor takes a look at how Bluetooth will soon get a speed boost by incorporating the WiMedia flavor of UWB. Recall that there were ultimately two un-reconciled camps in the UWB standards body when it fell apart. The two sides disagreed to go to the market to determine the de facto winner. More recently, the Bluetooth SIG has put its considerable market heft behind the WiMedia group, led by Intel. Some have incorrectly pointed out that ‘UWB will save Bluetooth’ we note that this is backwards: instead, Bluetooth will help WiMedia win the battle against the Multiband-OFDM Alliance for UWB dominance.

The Newsfactor article, for its part, has a bunch of brain-dead quotes like: “Noting that Bluetooth has not been a huge success so far“…wha? hasn’t it? The article itself tallies 500 million Bluetooth devices shipped. Isn’t that a huge success? They continue: “IDC analyst Abner Germanow said that adding UWB [to BT] is a smart move. ‘The range of Bluetooth is limited by regulatory constraints, and UWB is well suited for personal networks,’ he said.” Well, that’s wrong: Bluetooth is not limited by regulatory constraints. Regulations would easily allow for higher transmit power in the 2.4GHz range (uh…wifi), but the ‘tooth comes in well below the limits because it is constrained by low-power design. Ironically, UWB range is limited by regulations. But thanks for the 180 degrees incorrect analysis.

The notion that WiMedia is 'saving' Bluetooth is pure fiction, mostly believed by the type of people that compare vaporware for two years out against current technology. They then compound their errors by assuming that the current technology will not evolve.
Thus, we get the kind of poor analysts who have been forecasting Bluetooth's death for five years. Over and over, but they're never right.
Bluetooth leads the market for personal area networking, the annoying blue earbuds are almost ubiquitous now with mass market penetration. Of course BT was going to evolve towards technologies that allowed greater bandwidth while retaining the low-power characteristic that is essential for small mobile devices. UWB was the logical choice.
Bluetooth chip shipments are huge. They were at 5 million chips per week a year ago in May 2005. UWB is basically starting from zero. Bluetooth is the big dog here. So with their endorsement of a particular flavor of UWB, the Bluetooth SIG has shaped the market. I think the de facto winner has emerged as a result - WiMedia.

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