1.4 Bluetooth

If you think of 802.11x as a replacement for wired Ethernet networking, the goal of Bluetooth is to replace Universal Serial Bus (USB). See all those wires connecting your keyboard and mouse to your computer? In Apple's dreams, all of those will be connected wirelessly to your Mac via Bluetooth.

You can learn more about the specification at these sites:


Information site for users


Information site for developers

Figure 1-4 shows the Bluetooth symbol.

Figure 1-4. Symbol designating Bluetooth products

This dream is gradually becoming reality. In September 2003, Apple began shipping a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard. Microsoft's Bluetooth keyboard and mouse work with Mac OS X 10.2.6 or later (see Apple Knowledge Base article 107586 (http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=107586). At the time of this writing (October 2003) several other hardware manufacturers, including Logitech, Bluetake, and Belkin had announced (but not yet shipped) Bluetooth mice or keyboards. Given that Apple just began shipping machines with Bluetooth built-in in Q1 2003, we expect that over time:

  1. The cost of the Bluetooth chips will come down.

  2. More machines will (obviously) be available that support Bluetooth.

Given these factors, we're willing to bet that many peripherals vendors will support Bluetooth within a year or two.

So, why care about Bluetooth now? One of the coolest demonstrations of the future of Bluetooth is a Bluetooth cell phone such as the Sony Ericsson (http://www.sonyericsson.com/) T68i or P800, or the Nokia 3650 (http://nokia.com). One you've synced your contacts and appointments wirelessly between your Mac and your phone, you'll never again want to think about where your connection cable might be hiding.

The big advantage of Bluetooth over infrared is that it doesn't require line-of-sight transmissions: even if you have your Bluetooth phone tucked away in your purse or pocket, it can still interact with both your Bluetooth-equipped Mac and your Bluetooth headset. In fact, Bluetooth will allow you to use your cell phone without ever pulling it out of your pocket?you won't be able to tell the difference between the crazy person talking to himself and the cutting-edge gadget geek unless you get a good look at their ears.

The advantage of Bluetooth over RF (described in the following section) is that it requires only one Bluetooth adapter, no matter how many Bluetooth devices you hook up to any other given device. When Bluetooth input devices become widely available, switching from RF to Bluetooth will enable you to get rid of all the little receivers lined up next to your computer. A final advantage of Bluetooth over its predecessors is its range, which has a theoretical maximum of up to 10 meters, considerably better than RF.

This just scratches the surface of the how and what of Bluetooth, which will be covered thoroughly in Chapter 6, which is unsurprisingly titled "Bluetooth."

1.4.1 RF

Given the status of Bluetooth as not-quite-here-yet technology, many of the currently available wireless keyboards and mice are Radio Frequency (RF) devices, often working in the 900 Mhz range. Because RF requires a separate receiver for each wireless device (unless you buy a combination device, such as the ones from Logitech, http://www.logitech.com/) it's not a wonderful solution.

1.4.2 Infrared

Infrared was an early contender to RF and Bluetooth, and for a while it looked like infrared was going to be the winning wireless short-range technology. IR, also referred to as IrDA (http://www.irda.org/, short for Infrared Data Association, the body that creates the IR standards), works via infrared radiation to control external devices. Despite appearances, IR isn't completely dead on the Mac. If you need IR but have a newer Mac that shipped without IR support, it's possible to buy an adapter from MadsonLine (http://www.madsonline.com/) that connects via USB.

IR is currently used primarily for PDAs, some printers, and a few other accessories such as Keyspan's (http://www.keyspan.com/) Digital Media Remote. The latter comes with its own IR receiver, so it'll work with any USB-equipped Mac.

Infrared does have one major advantage over Bluetooth. To understand why, think about beaming information from one PDA to another at a crowded meeting. If more PDAs had Bluetooth, every PDA would be trying to talk to every other PDA within range. With IR and short distance line-of-sight, your PDA can easily figure out which other PDA it should be speaking to.

Table 1-2 compares short-range wireless options. Appendix A discusses both RF and IR in greater detail.

Table 1-2. Short-range wireless choices





Line-of-sight required?



4 Mbps

3 feet



Variable, depends on manufacturer's specifications



2.4 GHz

1 Mbps

30 to 800 feet