For example, the hub comes with software that gives a notification on the PC screen when there is a new text message sent to a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone. Clicking on an icon then allows the user to start exchanging text messages with the sender using the PC keyboard instead of the phone keypad.
Widcomm, the driver vendor, moved to expand the usefulness of Bluetooth devices by adding support for several profiles in a major driver upgrade in June. The BTW (Bluetooth for Windows) 1.4 software includes profiles for interface devices such as keyboards and mice and for personal area networks such as ad hoc groups of coworkers with portable devices, according to Rajiv Kumar, co-founder and chief technology officer of Widcomm. Several other device makers, in addition to Logitech, are using the software.
While Bluetooth has overcome some of the complexity and usage issues that have held back adoption of the technology and costs are coming down, Bluetooth's future prospects are restrained by limited bandwidth of around 500K bps (bits per second), Intel's Gelsinger said.
"If I want to load images from my camera into my PC it would be extremely slow to do that over a Bluetooth connection," Gelsinger said.
This is where Bluetooth faces a challenge from emerging short-range wireless networking technologies, such as Ultra Wideband (UWB). UWB technology was first developed in the 1980s and is used in some types of radar. More recently, the technology has been considered for high-speed, short-range wireless communications.
"We think (UWB) will have some of the same characteristics of Bluetooth, being short-range, low-power, but will be able to do it at much higher bandwidth," said Gelsinger, adding Intel believes UWB will offer bandwidth of up to 500M bps.
"UWB is really a far better technology for the short range," said Johnny Shih, the chairman and CEO of Asustek Computer Inc., one of the world's largest manufacturers of computing hardware, which makes laptops, motherboards and PDAs (personal digital assistants), among other products.
Despite the great promise of UWB, there are drawbacks to the technology. One of the problems is that UWB does not have regulatory approval in many countries outside the U.S., according to the Ultra Wideband Working Group (UWBWG). That means that UWB-enabled devices cannot be sold or used in these countries.
"However, there is significant interest in many countries and steps are being taken to explore a number of foreign markets and regulatory processes," according to the UWBWG's Web site.
At the product level, Logitech's Richard said UWB isn't ready to go into products but said the company has been studying it. "We're not saying Bluetooth is the winner and that's the way it will be for the next 10 years. We don't know. But today, that's the way it is," he said.