I think it’s at least as important to look at failures as it is to look at success. In that spirit I think it’s essential that everyone not avert their eyes when witnessing the ongoing flaming wreckage which is Bluetooth. So what is Bluetooth? I think it was summed up quite well in this post on Engadget:
Having a Bluetooth logo right on front is usually a good sign, and Stormblueâ€™s just announced the A9, a brand new portable media player with built-in Bluetooth so you can rock wireless headphones (at least thatâ€™s what weâ€™re assuming, so far we canâ€™t find anything confirming that it supports A2DP or any other stereo Bluetooth profile).
No one really knows what something does when it says it has Bluetooth support. Maybe it’ll accept files pushed over from other devices, or exchange of contact info, or support Bluetooth accessories. Or some classes of Bluetooth accessories, depending on the version of Bluetooth and which profiles are supported. I’ve tried about half a dozen headsets with 4 different models of phone from 4 different manufacturers. All technically worked, after some fiddling I was able to get each headset to connect to each phone. But in no case was I able to get things working consistently enough to make it worthwhile to use. The situation is a little better for device to device communication. For things like sending contacts it works great. Sending photos works great when it works, but is sometimes crippled by carriers so that they drive more traffic over their network. Binding a laptop to a phone to be used for data communication is really convenient when the laptop has built in Bluetooth, but sometimes phones aren’t setup to allow use as a dialup sync so that carriers can restrict traffic over their network.
The end result is that the little Bluetooth symbol has actually ended up meaning nothing at all. The technology isn’t the best in the world, but it’s the kind of thing that should be within reach of most implementors. There are some really crappy parts of the Bluetooth spec that make interoperability difficult at best, and the whole profiles concept sounded like a good idea at the time. It wasn’t… but it sounded good at the time. But the real failure hasn’t been technical however, I think it’s a failure in marketing and branding. When I pick up two devices with Bluetooth logos on them they should work together, period. With all the stuff in Bluetooth one would expect that basic interop would be the standard. But apparently those are all technologies for technologists, making device manufacturers lives easier but having nothing to do with what end users should expect. If you’re deep into technology and have the means, I recommend setting up Bluetooth and fooling around with it. I fooled around with a Linux system, a Windows system, and a few phones and PDAs when I was first playing with Bluetooth. It’s really quite interesting the kinds of stuff you might be able to get working. But then take a step back and try to figure out if you would be able to determine if a given device combination and setup would work before making a purchase and trying it. It’s kinda sad and kinda funny. Sorta like a monkey with a big ripe orange in it’s hand trying to pull it’s fist back through a small hole in a board. There’s so much there, unfortunately no one is really getting anything out of it.