If there is an industry that needs the Next Big Thing to drive growth, electronic components is it. And in 2003, Bluetooth technology-enabled in cell phones, headsets, PDAs and even PCs and peripherals-could be the long-awaited driver. That possibility has not been lost on components distributors. Avnet, an earlier believer in Bluetooth, opened its first Bluetooth design center-under the auspices of Avnet Radio Frequency Design Services-in Singapore in May 2001. Avnet quickly began offering a Bluetooth design and development kit. Other distributors have followed suit and are incorporating Bluetooth technology support in their new RF and wireless business units or tech centers.
With all the Bluetooth development under way, why can't distributors can't own a piece of the pie. Many provide development tools, reference designs and software for application-specific products. So why not extend that to Bluetooth?
A recently revised report from researcher Allied Business Intelligence Inc. projects Bluetooth-enabled chip set shipments will hit 1.2 billion units in 2005, up from 33.8 million units in 2002. Though it may be wishful thinking, the technology appears to show promise as a demand driver not only for chip sets and modules but also for such less-sexy components as sockets and other passive devices.
But there are roadblocks to overcome, not the least of which is whether consumers understand the technology and feel a compelling need for it. Clearly, the first products to incorporate Bluetooth will be high-end consumer offerings, which will trickle into the marketplace over the next couple of quarters.
Market researchers believe it will, particularly now that chip set prices have slipped below the coveted $5 target. In December, Motorola announced first-quarter 2003 million-unit volume pricing of $4.20 for its Integrated Bluetooth Radio solution. And engineering samples of Toshiba's single-chip Bluetooth solution will be available in February, followed by volume production in July at $5 each in lots of 100,000.
Another bit of good news is that component makers-including chip set and module makers-are well on their way to supporting Bluetooth-equipment manufacturers. In conjunction with announcements of volume production, key component makers have announced alliances with Bluetooth software and solution companies during the past month.
Let's hope the activity portends good news for 2003.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are strictly those of the author and should not be taken as an editorial position of EE Times or any of its other editors, publications or Web sites.