In a major event for the wireless world, Microsoft has joined the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG). The two major wireless standards groups in operation are the Bluetooth SIG and Wireless LAN. Bluetooth is a specification that lets various smart units communicate via a radio signal. The three essential units for Bluetooth are the Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), the smart phone, and mobile computers. In the future, many of these units will use embedded chip technology that supports the developing standard. “Bluetooth is an open specification for wireless communication of data and voice,” says an official Bluetooth document. “It’s based on a low-cost short-range radio link, built into a 9 x 9mm microchip, facilitating protected ad hoc connections for stationary and mobile communication environments. Bluetooth technology allows for the replacement of the many proprietary cables that connect one device to another with one universal short-range radio link.” Bluetooth technology sends signals in the FCC unlicensed 2.4GHz frequency and can achieve a gross data transfer rate of 1MBps. Functioning Bluetooth technologies are currently limited to wireless handsets, wireless headphones, and cable replacements. The future of Bluetooth—if you believe its boosters—is one of completely wireless networks in both the business and the home. However, detractors point out that interoperability issues need resolving, and the “bubble” over which current Bluetooth devices can communicate is relatively small—about 35 feet. The Bluetooth SIG, with more than 1200 company members, is the central force promoting Bluetooth technology. The SIG’s founding companies are Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Nokia, and Toshiba. Until now, these five companies had formed the SIG’s core steering group. On December 1, the Bluetooth SIG announced that its core group was expanding to add four new companies: Microsoft, 3Com, Lucent, and Motorola. The new 9-company steering group is Bluetooth’s Promoter group. Microsoft’s joining the new steering group resolves some interesting questions. Microsoft had opposed joining the Bluetooth SIG for several reasons, the most important being that the SIG required that all contributions to the Bluetooth standard be open to the public. Microsoft was trying to get into the SIG without giving up its intellectual property rights, claim insiders. I spoke to some Bluetooth players that aren’t part of the Promoter group about Microsoft’s joining. “I think it adds to the overall legitimacy of Bluetooth, and I am cautiously optimistic about Microsoft’s joining,” said Steve Juntunen, Bluetooth contact for Optimum Health Management, a SIG member. “Microsoft’s joining is a very big thing from my point of view,” said Juntunen. Optimum Health Management is bringing a psychological testing database called Digital Nomad to market. Digital Nomad links a Palm PDA running Puma Technologies’ Satellite Forms with a Microsoft Access database. Bluetooth technology allows realtime database synchronization, as doctors make their rounds, and, thus, would simplify the application. For more information on Bluetooth and Microsoft’s move to join the SIG, see the Bluetooth SIG site.