Bluetooth
By Matthew Maier

(Business 2.0) – Like the artist currently known as Prince, Bluetooth enjoyed a stunning resurrection in 2004. Introduced 10 years ago as a wireless way to move data across short distances, Bluetooth was initially overhyped by analysts. So when devices incorporating the technology took longer than expected to reach consumers—thanks to disagreements over a unified standard—some pundits declared Bluetooth dead on arrival.

But this year more than 1,400 products, from cell phones and cars to printers and medical equipment, incorporate Bluetooth. Shipments of Bluetooth semiconductors—specialized chips that implement the IEEE 802.15.1 protocol—doubled in 2003 to 69 million units and are expected to reach 700 million in just four years. Since Bluetooth, like Wi-Fi, operates in the unlicensed 2.4-GHz radio spectrum, it's easy to set up and use.

Motorola launched its first Bluetooth-capable phone, the Timeport 270c, in 2001. This year it will offer Bluetooth in 39 different products, including car kits, cell phones, and headsets. Toyota's eco-friendly Prius offers built-in Bluetooth communication and navigation kits. After years of derision, Bluetooth has supporters preparing to party like it's 1999. "Bluetooth is now in everything from consumer to medical devices," says In-Stat analyst Joyce Putscher. "It's no longer niche." — MATTHEW MAIER