Bluetooth and Wi-Fi go their separate ways

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The global markets for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi continue to show strong growth and will remain the leading personal area networking technologies, but analysts believe that prices and market developments are pushing them in new directions..

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi equipment and chipset numbers continue to increase, according to a short range wireless communications forecast by ABI Research.

But, with integrated circuit prices falling due to technology evolution and greater production efficiency, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi revenues are not rising as dramatically.

"This is especially the case for Wi-Fi, where the chipsets have been very expensive for a long time," said ABI senior analyst Doug McEuen.

"As the attach rate, particularly in laptops, increases to 100 per cent, production is growing rapidly and prices are falling.

"That is a good thing because Wi-Fi will need to find new opportunities as the laptop market reaches saturation."

Integrated circuit vendors are hoping that lower price points will make their products attractive to other market segments, especially the huge but very cost-sensitive wireless handset market.

"If you are a radio or integrated circuit manufacturer and your unit price is above $2 you are going to have trouble getting your product into a cellphone," said McEuen.

"That is definitely one of the reasons why Wi-Fi has seen slower adoption in that market."

Another key trend is that Bluetooth's prevalence in wireless handset/headset combinations is being supplemented by greater penetration in MP3 players and other portable media devices.

Bluetooth already has great penetration in the handset world and its price point is very low. It is also evolving towards higher speeds and greater capabilities.

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