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Intel apologises for Bluetooth gaffe

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Intel has apologised for saying that the Bluetooth wireless protocol is dead. It isn't, and this is all a terrible misunderstanding, it seems.

Last month Sean Maloney, executive VP (the 'executive VP' handle puts him in a class above other VPs, we're guessing, as the implication is that he actually does some work) of Chipzilla's Personal Networking Group, was cited by the ailing CNET news channel comparing Bluetooth's retreat from wireless networking to Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. Intel helped found the Bluetooth consortium, and has been a staunch advocate of the standard.

In an email circulated to Bluetooth SIG members, Maloney now explains: "Unfortunately, the reporter did not grasp that I was addressing a common mis-perception [sic] that the Bluetooth specification competes with 802.11b as a wireless networking technology (Bluetooth wireless is not a WLAN). Intel believes the Bluetooth specification and 802.11b are complementary technologies that address different wireless needs and will coexist in many environments)."

Yes, Sean, we know that. And you dear reader, know that too. But unfortunately, the twinkie* elements of the Stateside trade press either doesn't know that, or else they know it, but know too that can sell their editors a spurious war story based on the "battle" between Bluetooth and 802.11. Hey, both feature the word 'wireless' prominently, so aren't they in some kind of, you know, war?

As a consequence we've seen a lot of negative stories about incompatibilities between the two (gleefully exploited by manufacturers of 802.11 devices, and apparently Microsoft too, which for some reasons hates to see small devices get along with PCs. Go figure.).

But as we've said before, a moment's level headed appraisal of Bluetooth and 802.11 puts pay to any conspiracy theory. At some point in the future,
the two may be potentially in conflict, particularly when Bluetooth devices evolve enough to form Personal Area Networks - and at a technical level, they're likely to raise some compatibility problems as both address the same unregulated portion of the RF spectrum. But by that stage both chipsets will be cheap enough for manufacturers to build both into a small affordable device.

Essentially the two are different, and were created to address different needs. Bluetooth is the last-chance cable-replacement protocol, the successor to the crappy line-of-sight Infra Red standards that only the PDA people (and Toshiba) seemed to be able to get working. While 802.11 is the wireless Ethernet replacement that lets you browse the web from Starbucks**, or even if you're lucky (thanks to its clueless security) watch your neighbour compose you your SirCam before you actually receive it!.

So comparing the two is like confusing Vodka with Petrol: sure they both contain alcohol, but one is a fuel for cars, while the other is a fuel for journalists (and Finns).

" Bluetooth will survive but it will be a much more niche product than expected," Maloney was cited as saying.

Maybe, but there's a nascent wireless economy gearing up to taking advantage of Bluetooth: from the Bluetooth-enabled coke machines to wireless shoot-em-up games. Neither of these require Microsoft's participation, by the way. And while we're sceptical of producer-led hypes (eg. WAP), Bluetooth appears likely to win in this space simply because everyone needs it to win, and the benefits are so obvious.

We can wonder how Maloney got so carried away. On this occasion, Maloney's comments were widely reported in the Twinkie Inkies, and were fairly reported, as far as we can tell: regurgitating corporate press releases is one skill, but fabricating quotes is quite another, as it's a skill that requires the kind of imagination and initiative missing from modern Journalism courses. It doesn't win you any prizes. ®

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