It's a hardware/software specification -- a standard, if you will -- for wireless communication between and among computers and the devices we hook up to them, printers, modems, keyboards, mouses (mice?) and more. Someday, Bluetooth could rid your desktop of all those messy wires.
Bluetooth may have even greater promise in the truck cab where the technology will allow a central truck computer to talk to things like mobile phones, service recorders, printers and scanning devices that need not be installed or even plugged in.
A mobile phone, for example, could provide Internet access for the truck computer and every other device on board. Bluetooth could lead to a day when off-the-shelf driver devices need only be assigned at the start of a trip.
The two-year-old Bluetooth standard has been the subject of debate within the computer industry. Critics said it would fall far short of its hype, pointing to the group of companies that formed the Bluetooth Special Interest Group: Ericsson, IBM Corporation, Intel Corporation, Nokia and Toshiba Corporation. Missing, they said, was Microsoft, the industry's 900-pound gorilla.
But last month, Microsoft, along with 3Com Corporation, Lucent Technologies and Motorola Inc. joined a promoter group for Bluetooth, and actual Bluetooth products are beginning to come to market.
Bluetooth-compatible computers and devices contain a tiny radio module and communications software. As these modules are mass produced, they could add as little as $5 to the cost of a device.
But there are sure to be problems. One will be possible interference from other radio signals. Another will be the inevitable inability of one device to recognize another -- something that happens to users of supposedly foolproof plug-and-play and universal serial bus computers all the time.
To learn more, go to the Bluetooth web site (www.bluetooth.com). One thing they won't tell you, however, is how Bluetooth got its name.