Red-M opens Bluetooth to Palm developers

The drive to bring Bluetooth-based wireless link capabilities to handhelds based on Palm's operating system moved forward Tuesday when wireless software and hardware vendor Red-M Communications Ltd. introduced two Bluetooth software development kits for the Palm OS.

The development kits are designed to help developers quickly and easily write and test applications for the popular handheld computer operating system. Bluetooth is designed primarily for low-speed wireless communication among devices in a small area such as a cubicle or a car's interior, or among devices a user might carry around. The combination of Bluetooth and Palm devices could allow many users to more easily use their handhelds with other devices, performing functions such as printing files from the handheld or synchronizing the device with a PC wirelessly.

"One of the key client devices that will be Bluetooth-enabled will be (personal digital assistants). There are a tremendous number of developers developing products for handhelds," said Steve Gallagher, director of business development at Red-M.

However, users anxious to use Bluetooth on some Palm OS devices will have to wait a little longer than they might have hoped. A company official confirmed last week that Palm's delivery of a Bluetooth Secure Digital expansion module for use in its newer handhelds would be delayed until early next year. The module had originally been scheduled to become available before the end of this year.

Third-party vendors, including Red-M and TDK Corp., already are shipping Bluetooth accessories for Palm V and Vx handhelds using a "sled" design that snaps on to the bottom of the handheld. Red-M and other vendors also offer Bluetooth modules for the expansion slots of Handspring Inc. Palm OS Visor devices.

Red-M on Tuesday began shipping the Red-M Blade Dev-kit equipped with Red-M's Palm OS emulator cable, which lets developers write software on a PC using Palm OS emulation software while remaining connected to a Bluetooth-compliant device, such as a Palm with a Red-M Blade sled add-on, for software-testing purposes. It also made available a network version of the development kit that includes the Red-M 1050AP LAN Access Point. The access point lets developers easily create a Bluetooth wireless LAN environment on which to test applications, Red-M said.

A key use of Bluetooth for Palm users is for wireless access to the Internet or corporate intranet through a LAN or via a data-enabled mobile phone, Gallagher said. The 115K bps (bit-per-second) GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) technology, which some carriers have begun offering this year, will be a significant driver for mobile wireless access on Palm devices, Gallagher said.

Other drivers of Bluetooth use on Palm devices may include wireless access to e-mail over the Internet or a LAN, as well as multi-player games over both Bluetooth and a combination of Bluetooth and an Internet link.

Each development kit is priced at US$199. They can be ordered from Red-M's Web site at http//:www.red-m.com/bladedev-kit.

(Additional reporting by James Niccolai.)

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