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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Do not be fooled by the “politically correct”: to say Bluetooth LE One Size Fits All

One phrase often heard in recent years is “politically correct” which implies something often has different aspects under the table, behind the scene or in reality. Such as, it is politically correct to criticize the human rights, air pollution, Internet blocking, no free media, Tibet situation before, during and after the Beijing Olympics. Regardless, that event is the most successful Olympic event in history. Period. To add “technically” in front of “successful” could make many people feel better. The US and French presidents were the two most violently criticized China before the opening, neither were absent from the ceremony. These two guys are smart. People can “political correctly” rebuke them of no principle, but they build up and maintain the relationship with China and get business for their country originally belonging to others.

There is a reason to be “politically correct”. For marketing research companies, it is politically correct to offer public results in favor of the sponsors. As marketing research sponsors, it is important to find the marketing problems, but they won’t necessarily want to disclose the issues found to help their competitors. Instead, only “politically correct” information will go public to fool companies not well immunized.

In front of me is the August release of “Connectivity News” from IMS research, a news letter promoting the research reports from this company on different topics. Noted that IMS research has a strong tie with Bluetooth Org. The front page article is “Bluetooth Low Energy Wireless Technology – One Size Fits All” trying to sell the report “The World Market for Bluetooth Low Energy Wireless Technology”. While I am not going to buy this report, here I will tell you why and immunize you if you have bought it and is going to use it to build your business case.

First of all, I hate any misleading statement especially those are done on purpose. I have raised my yellow cards twice to CSR’s press release on their Bluetooth Low Energy demonstration. Here I see again in this IMS article, which says “Bluetooth low energy technology has significant industry backing from … industry associations such as the Continua Health Alliance and of course the Bluetooth SIG”. Continua Health Alliance has selected the classic Bluetooth as part of the version 1 interoperability standard. It has NOT backed the Bluetooth Low Energy. There are in total six technologies in competition to be selected in version 2 standards, ANT, Bluetooth Low Energy, BodyLAN, Sensium, Zigbee and Z-Wave. Bluetooth Low Energy is the only one that is still in lab. All others already have products in the market.

“It is clear that the drivers (for Bluetooth Low Energy) outweigh the barriers” says the report. It is clear that the drivers are common to all the competing technologies and the barriers may be unique to Bluetooth Low Energy! The barriers mentioned in this introduction include unsynchronized roll-out of dual-mode and single-mode ICs, meaning Bluetooth Low Energy equipped cell phones will be in the market without supporting health sensors for a while. You think this is fine? Think again.

The competitors, such as ANT and BodyLAN have sensors, watches and fitness equipments but they do not have cell phones. When Bluetooth Low Energy gets into cell phone, I believe some of the competing technologies will also get into phones in the next 18 months given by Bluetooth Low Energy’s delaying schedule. Both ANT and Zigbee have miniSDIO card available today. They just need to have one step further to be completely embedded into phones..

“It will simply be a case of replacing a classic Bluetooth IC with a dual-mode Bluetooth Low Energy IC…a negligible cost adder” when the introduction comment on the expected volumes used in cell phones. Here you can see the interest conflicts between those dual-mode chip suppliers (such as CSR) and the single mode suppliers, and why they are out of synch. The former is fully-hearted to consolidate their market leadership regardless the cost. It is naïve to believe in there is negligible cost adder. For Bluecore 7 from CSR, there is Flash space well reserved for the code of Bluetooth Low Energy. This is the cost already invested and is demanding to get its market value. The question is not to add negligible cost, but to not waist significant cost.

On the other side, the single mode chip vender will consider cost in comparison not versus classic Bluetooth, but the existing technologies. The complexity of Bluetooth Low Energy will make this solution less competitive. Unlike phones where company as Nokia can implement Bluetooth Low Energy duo-mode chips in volume without worrying much this new feature is in use or not. Each single-mode chip will power a sensor that will be used by a consumer for certain. This is like classic Bluetooth in phone versus in headset. Phone with Bluetooth today only have about 13% attach rate. So the business case for single-mode Bluetooth Low Energy is much harsh. This explains why this is predicted out of synch, which is not because of a technical issue but business concerns.

Be smart and do not be fooled. Otherwise you will lose business

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