IBM's wireless strategy gained altitude today when it announced a partnership with TDK to roll out a host of wireless IBM products based on the Bluetooth wireless standard.
This summer, IBM will enhance its ThinkPad notebook computers with a wireless PC Card based on Bluetooth technology, a short-range radio technology for transmitting data.
At first, Bluetooth cards will allow ThinkPads to swap data. Soon after, IBM plans to add a multifunction port to ThinkPad lids. Code-named 'Portofino', the Plug-and-Play connector will support Bluetooth transceivers, giving ThinkPads cable-free connections to Bluetooth-enabled printers, cameras, and cell phones.
Big Blue also confirms it is working on a Bluetooth modem for Palm devices, including its own Palm-compatible WorkPad. The yet-to-be-named Bluetooth PC Card will be priced under £200.
Other vendors supporting the Bluetooth wireless standard include Ericsson, Intel, Lucent, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, Toshiba, and 3Com. Bluetooth is noted for its ease of use; it can allow nearby devices and peripherals to communicate automatically.
If Bluetooth technology becomes pervasive, a handheld device could easily sync data with a notebook computer, and a cellular phone could act as a modem to send data over the Internet - no cables required.
IBM will be the first major computer maker to offer a Bluetooth wireless product. Currently, Dell, Compaq and Apple have wireless options that conform to the competing IEEE 802.11 wireless LAN (local area network) standard.
In the third quarter of this year, Acer NeWeb and Widcomm expect to release a competitor to IBM's announced Bluetooth PC Card. They will offer a Bluetooth PC Card called a BlueCard, priced at around £60. A £60 Universal Serial Bus version called BlueShare is also scheduled, along with a £60 option for the Visor handheld computing device called BlueConnect.
Compaq, Dell, and Gateway are also expected to launch Bluetooth devices early next year.
Experts say the popularity of wireless notebook computing is growing fast. The market is expected to hit an estimated $839 million in sales this year and $1.56 billion in 2001, according to market researchers at International Data Corp.