Bluetooth is to dominate the wireless market, stealing a march over Wi-Fi technology, Forrester Research has claimed in a new report.
According to Forrester, a wider take-up of Bluetooth in mostly mobile phones will see the wireless data technology incorporated into five times as many products as Wi-Fi and so effectively take over.
It predicts that there will be 286.5 million Bluetooth products by 2008, compared to just 53.4 million Wi-Fi products. A good many of the Wi-Fi products will also have Bluetooth included (as is starting to be the case already) but mobile phones in particular will mostly contain just Bluetooth.
Sheer numbers will mean that Bluetooth will become the standard way of transmitting data wirelessly (anything with Wi-Fi can also have Bluetooth).
The claim will come as some surprise to the very big telcos that are investing heavily in Wi-Fi technology and there is a very real risk that by looking forward, Forrester has forgotten where it is looking from.
The underlying assumption that there is a battle going on between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth is something that has been popular in the past, but due to new chips coming out that include both types of technology, it is an argument that is beginning to pall. While we - especially the media - tend to reduce everything down to a battle with a winner and a loser, the ability for both these technologies to co-exist and to do so at a lower price each year means that they may become best of friends rather than mortal enemies.
Also tied up in Forrester's thinking is the idea of the Wi-Fi "bubble" bursting. The excitement generated by Wi-Fi technology while Bluetooth stubbornly refused to appear despite years of hype has certainly seen fantastic visions draw up of public hotspots coating the entire country with a wireless varnish.
But following the madness surrounding dotcoms which dragged everyone along, the new sport is spotting bubbles and then pointing to their inevitable decline. Are wireless protocols really that engaging?
For the vast majority of people, this technology is just something that has happened and saves on lots of cables and let you move about while still connected to computer networks. It is almost entirely within the hands of well-established computer companies and telcos. Hardly the dotcom boom all over again.
Can Bluetooth and Wi-Fi co-exist? Definitely. But will one grow stronger while the other weakens and dies? Possibly, although the two are very different beasts. Despite mobile companies' claims that there is no need for landlines anymore, no one for a second imagines that landlines will vanish. Why should Wi-Fi disappear just because Bluetooth can do more or less the same thing?
The other thing is that if you remove mobile phones from Forrester's figures you are left with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on fairly level pegging. If you are looking for a bubble to burst, why not look at the holy cow that is mobile phones? It's assumed that we will all desperately clammer for the latest technology in phones, but is it true? People like the ringtones and silly games on mobiles but the two latest features - built-in cameras and 3G technology - have hardly inspired in their take-up so far.
As ever, only time will tell. Bluetooth is finally with us and becoming more popular. Meanwhile, Wireless-G has just been released officially and has enormous potential. To start thinking about what will happen even one year down the line is almost certainly going to be a waste of time.