Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What Would Make Bluetooth Easier To Use?

Why is it that Bluetooth mice and other devices typically require a USB adapter even if many laptops are sold today with native Bluetooth? It seems very difficult to get mice to work with the native bluetooth. It is really not that much fun to try to connect/disconnect the dongle or prevent yourself from bumping it while setting up a presentation.

On a broader scale, it would seem that an easy way to connect and use bluetooth would be excellent. Is it really standard, or does it have some distance to go?

I think many can sympathize with the distress over bluetooth usability. Many of the first generation bluetooth devices used way to much power and were always out of battereis. On later products some vendors seemed to abandon standards, like logitech, who uses a proprietary bluetooth connection for some of their headphones or other vendors that do or dont use the same support standards, example stereo headphones and the a2dp standard. For mice as you mentioned you have some of the same type of issues.

In addition to these issues connection disconnections buttons on most bluetooth devices seem to be tiny and hard to use.

As far as mice specifically go Logitech builds some non bluetooth wireless mice that use the receivers so small that they are not precariously placed and endangering the wellbeing of your laptop/receiver.

And let's not forget the easiest option to connecting a mouse - a wired mouse, where you always know when it's connected and when not and you never need to worry about batteries.

Overall the "problem(s)" are caused by the device vendor (laptop, mouse, headset, phone , etc) not including all of the software service providers (ie drivers) in the bluetooth software on that device. So for instance a headset works fine with a phone but would not pair with a hp PDA, yet the hp PDA will pair with a laptop for internet access.

Second trying to explain this to a user is basically too technical and in reality should not be required, ie the device should meet user expectations of its use and have the software support built in. For the vendor however this means adding more cost in terms of the additional software.

So my view is make all devices have all the expected software and support available OR ensure the packaging/manual is clear on what the device does do - CSR who supplies 80% of the bluetooth chips could help by being more market orientated and ensuring this message gets through the vendors and out to the end user. We would benefit and so would CSR.

Another issue ... Bluetooth support in Windows has been extremely poor up to now with only limited profile support. This has meant that vendors have to supply a Bluetooth stack with their device and due to licensing issues that also means they have to provide a Bluetooth dongle.

You can get lucky and get a laptop with the same Bluetooth stack as supplied by your peripheral vendor but it's pot luck unless you know what to look for.

The most common stacks are Toshiba, Widcomm and Blue Soleil but they all require licenses built into the Bluetooth dongle for full functionality. Vista has better Bluetooth support so the problem may start to ease.

The most oft heard issue concerns batteries. My brother and his wife got bluetooth headsets for each of their cellphones. It didn't take long to discover that battery life was pitiful to the point of useless .... and the detection and connection process is a real pain in the ear.

So to close .... the likely top suggestion with the best chance of making the most BlueTooth users happy is better batteries, auto-discovery and connection.

If you'd like to add other issues .... or suggestions ... by all means leave a comment.

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