Palm Bringing Bluetooth Wireless Communications to Handhelds

Bringing the Bluetooth short-range wireless communication standard one step closer to reality for Palm(TM) handheld computers, Palm, Inc. today announced the Palm Bluetooth Card here at the Bluetooth Congress 2001. The card, somewhat larger than a postage stamp, will enable quick, easy and secure local communication (within 10 meters, or 30 feet) between Palm handhelds and other Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as mobile phones, laptops, printers, network hubs and other handhelds.

Designed using the open industry-standard Secure Digital Input/Output (SDIO) specification, the Palm Bluetooth Card can be slipped into Palm products that have the SD/MultiMediaCard expansion slot, currently the Palm m500 and m505 handhelds. The card, jointly developed between Palm and Toshiba, a leader in the development of SDIO add-ons, is expected to be available before the end of the year for $150 or less (estimated U.S. street price).

The Bluetooth wireless communication standard — supported by industry leaders such as IBM, Ericsson, Nokia, Toshiba and Intel — was developed to encourage the adoption of wireless communications worldwide. The Bluetooth standard is a specification for small form-factor, low-cost, short-range radio links among devices, allowing a variety of portable and mobile computing products to talk to each other across platforms.

“Bluetooth has the ability to change the way we work, share information and interact with each other,” said John Cook, senior director of product marketing for Palm, Inc. “As Bluetooth-enabled products become more pervasive, we believe they will inspire people to create a new class of products and services that we can only begin to imagine.”

A Wireless Bridge to the Internet

One of the initial uses of the Palm Bluetooth Card will be to wirelessly connect handhelds with mobile phones. For example, a woman who wants to dial up the Internet or her corporate network might have a Palm handheld in her hand and a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone in her purse. Using Bluetooth communications to connect to the phone, within seconds she could send and receive email, use web clipping applications, browse the web for information, or send instant messages — all without opening her purse.

“This is only the beginning,” Cook said. “Much the way modems changed personal computers from isolated computing machines into pervasive communications tools, we believe Bluetooth will open a new era in interoperability among devices and collaboration among people.”

Collaboration and Sharing

Palm and the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) believe that products like the Palm Bluetooth Card will play a key role in making Bluetooth a wireless industry standard for Personal Area Networking (PAN). Multiple Bluetooth-enabled devices in proximity to one another can — at the user’s initiation — form a PAN in which up to eight devices communicate and share information. In this case, a group of people in a meeting room can use handhelds to compile their discussion items into a single agenda viewable by all. Notes immediately can be distributed to all attendees, and the group can confirm the next meeting by searching each attendee’s schedule, recommending and securing a time that works for all.

“We are very glad to work with Palm and excited about their implementation of the Bluetooth SD card in their leading handheld computers,” said Kenji Hibi, General Manager of Toshiba’s Bluetooth Business Development Division. “As a leader in Bluetooth and SD card development, we will continue to offer mobile users more flexibility and options in mobile solutions, and we expect to contribute to the expansion of the SDIO Card including Bluetooth into various applications.”

Pervasive Interoperability

Today, makers of handhelds, phones, laptops, printers and Bluetooth access points are working with Palm and other members of the Bluetooth SIG to lead development of the Bluetooth standard and create Bluetooth devices of all kinds that work instantly and seamlessly with each other. With the kind of third-party software applications that Palm and other Bluetooth SIG partners are encouraging developers to create, handheld users will have the power to communicate with almost any other user or device.

For example, a man is about to enter an important contract negotiation meeting. Before joining the group, he checks email on his Palm handheld by connecting to one of the Bluetooth access points deployed throughout his corporate campus. He receives a revised contract in email; he edits the contract and prints the new version to a local Bluetooth-enabled printer — all from his handheld.

In the future, small Local Area Network (LAN) access points in offices, airports and stores — called “hot spots” — may provide wireless access to the Internet using Bluetooth. The types of services that might be available to a user via a hot spot include access to important corporate information, favorite Internet content via the MyPalm(TM) portal, or vertical applications for retail, healthcare and financial services. Palm is working with companies such as Axis Communications with the goal of making connectivity into these hot spot networks a simple and elegant user experience.

Cook said, “In a few years, we believe people could potentially use their handheld to talk to a small Bluetooth server hub at a local coffee shop and check email while they drink their cafe au lait.”

Palm OS Support for Bluetooth

In addition, Palm will offer Bluetooth support for Palm OSĀ® 4.x software by the end of the year. This will allow licensees to easily incorporate Bluetooth into products or release add-on Bluetooth solutions for current Palm Powered(TM) products. This also will enable Bluetooth-based software applications to work seamlessly on all Palm Powered handhelds.

Developer Opportunities

Palm is working with Bluetooth developers to create a variety of solutions for Bluetooth users that will be available when the Palm Bluetooth Card hits store shelves by the end of the year. Developers can get a developer tool kit and links to technical APIs to make current Palm OS solutions Bluetooth compatible at www.palmos.com/dev/tech/bluetooth/.


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