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Handful Of Bluetooth Products On Way

Chicago — Motorola and wireless headset supplier GN Netcom unveiled their first Bluetooth products during the GlobalXChange show and announced plans for late-year shipments.

Motorola’s first Bluetooth-capable wireless phone is the trimode CDMA Timeport 270, which will be available in limited quantities to carriers in December and in high volume in the first quarter.

The Timeport 270 is expected to retail for at least $299, and a Bluetooth Smart Module attachment due at the same time is expected to retail for around $199, the company said. The Smart Module is integrated into a replacement battery cover and will operate off the phone’s battery.

The module will be available in wireless phone distribution channels along with a Motorola-brand PC Card, due in December at an expected price range of $149-$249, and a Motorola-brand USB add-on, due in the first half of 2001, the company said.

Motorola said it is holding off a Bluetooth headset introduction until sometime in 2001 until the company can make the technology more current-efficient and can reduce the technology’s size and cost. “We’re still researching a viable price point,” a spokesman said.

GN Netcom of Nashua, N.H., however, isn’t waiting. For the office and SOHO markets, the company demonstrated a 2.1-ounce Bluetooth wireless headset and companion single-line cordless base station/recharger.

At a suggested $499, the GN 9000 is priced at $150 more than a non-Bluetooth 2.4GHz frequency-hopping digital spread-spectrum version shown by the company, but for the additional expense, consumers get the ability to use the headset with a Bluetooth-enabled wireless phone, said product marketing director Paul Mahoney. At a suggested $299, the headset is also available separately from the base station. The price includes a small recharger for the headset’s integrated rechargeable NiMH battery.

The 9000 ships in November to carriers, retailers and catalogs under the GN Netcom name and will probably also be sold under the Jabra name, said Mahoney. GN recently purchased Jabra.

The 9000 headset’s rechargeable battery operates for two hours of continuous online use compared to the non-Bluetooth version’s seven hours. The 9000’s typical range is up to 30 feet, while the non-Bluetooth model delivers range up to 50 feet. Recharge time for both models is three hours.

For its part, Motorola is planning two other versions of the Bluetooth-enabled TimePort 270: One is a TDMA trimode version due in the first half along with a GSM triband version operating at 1.9GHz in the United States and in the 900MHz and 1.8GHz bands in other countries.

The CDMA model is a high-featured model with built-in address book and appointment calendar functions that can by synchronized via Bluetooth with popular desktop or laptop applications. Multipoint synchronization enables it to synchronize simultaneously with more than one Bluetooth-equipped computing device.

It also features WAP browser, voice recorder, predictive text input, an eight-line display (six for text), the company’s first four-way navigation key, and the company’s first user-customizable menu, which appears on a new high-resolution display. It’s Motorola’s first non-iDEN phone with built-in hands-free speaker phone.

It weighs 4.55 ounces with standard battery delivering about four hours of talktime or nine- to 10-day standby time, the company said.

Ericsson and Nokia also demonstrated Bluetooth technology at the show, but Nokia declined to comment on its plans. Ericsson said it plans late-year 2000 or early 2001 availability of an add-on Bluetooth module for the currently available T28 1.9GHz/900MHz GSM world phone and a wireless hands-free headset and PC Card. Previously, the company cited late-2000 availability.

The company also said previously that it expected an initial price of $500 or less on its cordless headset packaged with an add-on module for its wireless T28 world phone.

Also at the show, Palm wireless products director Scott Lincke said a snap-on Bluetooth module is planned for Palm devices in the first half of 2001. Details were unavailable.

In other recent Bluetooth announcements:

  • Toshiba said it plans October shipments of a Motorola-made Toshiba-branded Bluetooth PC Card through retail channels, and IBM is also sourcing a Motorola card, Motorola said.
  • Hewlett-Packard plans November shipments of a Bluetooth PC card retailing for $149. IBM and Dell have also said they plan embedded Bluetooth and 802.11 wireless Ethernet solutions in select laptops by the end of the year.