Vendors look to ease Bluetooth connectivity

PalmSource Inc., the operating system arm of Palm Inc., and BVRP Software Group, a mobile middleware software vendor, announced at the CTIA conference here solutions that will make Bluetooth devices simpler for the end-user to operate.

It appears that lost in the hype surrounding the benefits of Bluetooth was the reality that configuring a Bluetooth-enabled notebook or handheld to work with a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone behaving as if it were a modem required at least a degree in computer science.

"The user needs to install and configure drivers to make the phone look like an Internet device; otherwise the OS won't know how to handle it. The phone also needs to be set up to act as a modem," said Bob Lang, president of BVRP Software in Westminster, Colo.

BVRP unveiled at the conference its Mobile PhoneTools software, which when installed on a notebook allows users to click on the PhoneTools connectivity Wizard that simplifies the process of setting up the phone to be used as modem to one click, Lang said.

PalmSource made a similar Bluetooth interoperability announcement, confining itself, however, to Sony/Ericsson phones and any Palm OS device using Bluetooth.

PalmSource also aligned with Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications to work together at easing the setup of a Bluetooth wireless connection between devices running the Palm OS and Sony Ericsson mobile phones, the companies said Thursday. The two companies will strive for out-of-the-box compatibility between Bluetooth-enabled Sony Ericsson phones and handhelds running the Palm OS.

For example, users should be able to easily connect their personal digital assistant (PDA) to the Internet via a GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) phone and automatically dial a number on the phone from their PDA address book, the companies said.

According to Albert Chu, vice president of business development at PalmSource in Sunnyvale, Calif., the Bluetooth spec was purposely left broad enough so that vendors could differentiate their solutions. However, this also meant that each implementation is different enough that each device has its own unique way of connecting, and the vendors will have to tackle that issue one device at a time.

The PalmSource solution, which will be available by the first quarter, hopes to create an "out-of-the-box compatibility between the two companies' devices," said Chu, who added that without such software, configuring a cell phone as modem to work with a handheld is a daunting task.

BVRP's Mobile PhoneTools is available now and will be distributed through deals with carriers, through retail priced at $59.99, or licensed with volume discounts to enterprise-level customers.

BVRP's Lang also said that each device must be configured separately, but that Mobile PhoneTools already has been configured to work with more than 500 handsets.

One industry analyst said that there are many problems with wireless connections, but at least BVRP is taking care of its slice of the market.

"There are 50 million laptops in the world today. Designing a Bluetooth solution is low-hanging fruit, and to use a wizard is something laptop users are used to," said Isacc Ro, a mobile analyst at Aberdeen Group in Boston.

Both the BVROP and PalmSource solutions are targeted at the 2.5G and 3G market.

Joris Evers is the Amsterdam correspondent for the IDG News Service.

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