Motorola bares its Bluetooth grin and points to the PMG

New toys to play with

We had hints, before, that Motorola was following the IXI path, and designing a personal mobile gateway wireless hub - with phones, text pads, cameras and other toys all being Bluetooth peripherals. Now, the veil is lifting a family of new Bluetooth peripherals. And plans including stereo audio devices.

Today, the company said it couldn't confirm, but wouldn't deny, that it was working with Bluetooth pioneers IXI Mobile - then admitted that it would work with partners, and "wouldn't re-invent wheels."

New toys: at a conference in London, product manager Fred Zimbric predicted that the phone itself would become "just a little green circuit card." He said: "A phone will be embedded in cars, computers, other devices. The Bluetooth accessory will be the thing you use. You will wonder which is the accessory, and which is the phone."

Music storage with both Bluetooth and USB

The star of the show was the "necklace" bluetooth device. There were also three ordinary wireless headpieces, and a "remote speaker" which allows the motorcar user to fit their own hands-free kit - all Bluetooth. "The HS 830 Necklace Headset will have a multifunction button, 5 hours talk time, six days standby. This is the bluetooth module; you can attach it to the motorcycle helmet headset in the HS 830 Helmet," said Zimbric, showing off the noise cancelling, rubber sealed cover, which makes the helmet unit weather proof.

Concept devices were shown. The necklace is a product which will definitely be launched, and will allow devices to be swapped out. But move away from phones, and devices being tested include texting keyboards "thin as a credit card, wearable like an ID badge" and music storage units, which could be used as a temporary "staging area" for high-res pictures taken by a future Bluetooth camera. Which might, or might not, be a phone itself.

"These are concept devices, not products," Zimbric said. "But if we did launch them, they would appear next year."

He also showed future Bluetooth toys; things which will allow us to take the sound output from iPods, TV sockets, or CD players or PCs, and literally broadcast them over Bluetooth throughout the home, in high quality stereo. Not, perhaps, true hi-fi - but then, the output of an iPod isn't true hi-fi, either.

Two devices in particular will appear soon. The DC800 Stereo Gateway; and HT 820 Bluetooth stereo headset "which we're coming out with next year, will be costed at a level well below WiFi stereo products, which we think are expensive. And we'll upgrade them as soon as the Bluetooth SIG (special interest group) ratifies the Enhanced Data Rate (EDR) spec, which is three times faster than the 700 kilobit/sec payload you get today," said Fred Zimbric.

The uncanny resemblance between Motorola plans and IXI Mobile designs has been noted before. Was this the moment to ask whether the two companies were talking? Is this necklace the first step towards a Motorola PMG? or coincidence?

Zimbric said he "couldn't say." Asked if he could deny it, he just grinned. Henrik Asbjorn, general manager of Motorola EMEA consumer business said: "Our relationship with Apple over iTunes shows that if there is something out there, then, if the question is 'are we going to reinvent everything?' then the answer is 'absolutely not.' The Apple Motorola deal made sense; will see where we can be partnering up with other companies, where it makes sense."

No comment from IXI Mobile, either.

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