The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) announced an initiative to make it easier for consumers to set up products that use the short-range wireless technology, yesterday.

Unveiled at the Bluetooth Developers Conference, the "5-Minute Ready" program will include implementation guides for vendors, reference-testing platforms, and an interoperability-testing facility sponsored by the SIG.

For consumers, it includes a redesigned Web site with a feature for helping buyers find potential pairs of Bluetooth products. The SIG will also come up with a standard lexicon for the technology, in 33 languages to help make better manuals. All the initial parts of the move will be in place by the end of the first quarter of 2003, and other elements may be added later, according to Mike McCamon, executive director of the SIG.

Different strokes The industry consortium has faced criticism in the past for not ensuring that developers implement Bluetooth in the same way. Industry observers say this has frustrated users and slowed adoption of the technology.

Bluetooth, standardized in May 1998, has lost some momentum since its early days, McCamon acknowledged in a keynote address. But, it has regained some momentum in recent months, he said.

Since April, the organization has consulted with analysts and industry participants on its future strategy. Among the key problems, it turned out, was that there was no target for interoperability efforts in the industry, he said.

Turn off If consumers can't easily get one Bluetooth-enabled product to work with another one from a different vendor, they will be turned off by the technology, McCamon told the audience of developers and vendor executives.

"If we don't do this, everything we're doing and everything we've done won't matter," McCamon claimed.

Bluetooth is designed to transmit data at a maximum of 768Kbps (bits per second) over a maximum distance of 10 metres. Originally promoted for wireless personal-area networks of PCs, handheld computers, peripherals and printers on a user's desk, it has been most widely adopted in mobile phones.

Key applications initially include linking a phone to a headset, making it easier to connect a phone to a car's audio system, and using a data-enabled phone as a modem for a computer.

The Bluetooth Developers Conference ends tomorrow.