Bluetooth Joins 'Em
By Mike Masnick, Thu May 05 00:15:00 GMT 2005

The people behind Bluetooth have understood the old maxim, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" all too well. While it's still early, they've decided that the best way to forestall yet another round of "UWB will kill Bluetooth" articles, would be to merge the development paths of the two technologies.

Bluetooth often seems like the punching bag of the wireless industry. Even as it's grown rapidly, people always want to write it off -- often favoring technologies that still don't exist. For years, it seems like every few months you could expect to see yet another article or analysis declaring the inevitable death of Bluetooth, even as shipments continued to accelerate. Earlier this week, in fact, there was just such an article, claiming that Bluetooth was somehow "past its prime."

While Bluetooth is hardly a perfect technology and has many known problems, it is increasingly widespread and well-known. That entrenched position isn't so easy to remove, no matter what some analysts claim. On top of all of this, the most commonly named "replacement" technology, UWB, is in the middle of a very nasty standards battle that has delayed the technology for quite some time. However, the technology behind UWB (whenever it finally is standardized) obviously has a lot of advantages that could benefit Bluetooth.

Instead of fighting it out of pride, the Bluetooth SIG has decided that it might as well join the party. It's aligned itself with UWB, no matter what the eventual standard will be. This works out well for everyone. It basically gives Bluetooth a better roadmap, keeping it compatible with UWB and letting the development paths of the two offerings merge over time. For the UWB camp, it helps them erase some of the issues caused by the standards battle. With Bluetooth becoming entrenched, UWB would find itself fighting to push Bluetooth aside. Now, the two technologies can work together, and the evolution to UWB can be much more graceful and smooth.

While it may not sound that exciting, this move should smooth the path for both technologies. While they still have questions that need to be answered, this represents a perfect example of why people should never be so quick to condemn an existing technology as "dead" in the face of a not-yet-standardized technology. The existing technology can evolve and adjust -- and might just end up merging with the new technology.