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Reviewed by: Ed Lau [01.28.03]
Manufactured by: Bluetake

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People are always on the lookout for “the next big thing” but the description of what they’re looking for is always quite vague.  In our lifetime…well, at least my lifetime, technology has advanced at an exponential rate, giving rise to affordable personal computers, the internet and a weeks worth of music that fits in the pocket of your jeans.  Every once in awhile, the industry gives us a product that not only revolutionizes the way we use technology but also the way we go about our daily lives.

However, even with computers and consumer electronics moving at the rate that they do, we seldom see a truly original achievement.  Most seem to be rehashed ideas and products but there isn’t really any reason to complain.  Broadband internet, for example, with its streaming audio/video and always-on e-mail and instant messaging changed the way the world communicates and experiences the media.  Revolution, evolution or both, “the next big thing” nevertheless transforms
us as a whole.

So what is it?  What is the product that will make our lives easier (or…more complicated…as it seems) with its conception?  What is “the next big thing”?  Convergence devices (like the new Sony PDA/video camera)?  The Segway?  Pants that can’t be stained? 

…It’s Like You Ate A Lot Of Blueberries

 If you’re a gadget freak like me, you will have no doubt heard of Bluetooth.  It’s not as new as some people think.  Some of you may remember a few years ago when Bluetooth was announced to the public, backed by what seemed like a billion corporations and the media.

Number of Bluetooth devices promised/in production = 1 bazillion

Number of Bluetooth devices in stores = 0

Well, maybe one or two.  The first I can remember was a PC Card from 3com which, at the time, was essentially useless unless you had two…and two laptops.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, Bluetooth is a wireless standard like 802.11b/Wi-Fi.  However, while 802.11b (and soon 802.11a and 802.11g) is more of a wireless networking technology, meant to replace the CAT5 cable from the back of your rig, Bluetooth was meant to replace all the others.  It doesn’t have the speed and range of Wi-Fi and it’s not really meant to.  It’s designed for a relatively short range and for a relatively lower cost.  Bluetooth was the way that the industry was going to replace not only the wires that come out the back of your keyboard, mouse and the rest of your peripherals, but all wires.  Could you imagine getting a pop out of a vending machine using your cell phone?  Could you imagine ordering movie tickets while you’re already inside the theater, not having to line up?  In the not-so-distance future, we will be able to and Bluetooth might just be the way to do it.

So We Have How Many Products Now?

 While Bluetooth had a very rocky childhood, we are starting to see more and more companies implement the short range wireless standard in their products.  Sony-Ericsson, HP/Compaq, and Epson are just a few.  That being said, picture this.  You’re walking down the street when your Sony-Ericsson T68i rings but it’s in your backpack.  Not to worry…since your Bluetooth-enabled headset is paired with the phone and answers the call at the touch of a button.  It’s that new girl that you met at the club last night, wanting to know if you want to do something on Saturday. 
Being the suave, debonair, technologically-endowed dude that you are, you whip out your HP iPaq h5400 and see that you got an appointment at the gym that day.  No problem though.  You tell her to hold while you tap the iPaq for the gym’s phone number.  The PDA tells your phone what number to call and you talk to the rep on your headset and reschedule.  Good job, you tech stud, you.

While we are a ways away from Bluetooth-enabled vending machines or James Bond-esque vehicles which you can unlock and drive with your cell phone (yes, automotive products are on the drawing board for Bluetooth technology…but you probably won’t be able to drive using it.  Heh…), slowly but surely, the wires are disappearing. 

At last count, the number of Bluetooth-enabled devices available was 781.  Thanks to our friends at Bluetake, I’ve had a chance to see how much Bluetooth changes my routine with three of them.

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