A while back I wrote about Ozmo, a company that plans to replace Bluetooth with Wi-Fi in certain applications.
Ozmo’s pitch is that their special version of Wi-Fi is faster, less prone to interference, cheaper and more power efficient than Bluetooth. Though slow for Wi-Fi, Ozmo’s data rate of 9 Mbps is way better than the 3 Mbps of Bluetooth 2.1 plus EDR. Concerning interference, Bluetooth transmissions are in the same 2.4 GHz frequency range as Wi-Fi, so careful engineering is always needed for coexistence; but coexistence is not an issue for Ozmo, because it is a flavor of Wi-Fi. The lower-cost part of the story is that while an Ozmo chip for a peripheral is roughly the same price as a Bluetooth chip, it saves the need for a Bluetooth chip in the host device. So if Ozmo’s claims of double the battery life of Bluetooth turn out to be valid when tested, the pitch holds water.
Bluetooth is unshakably incumbent in the billion-unit-per-year mobile phone market; most phones are now shipping with Bluetooth. But in laptops the Bluetooth attach rate is still well under 50%, while the Wi-Fi attach rate is close to 100%. So it makes sense that Ozmo is focusing initially on the computer market. Ozmo enables a laptop to use wireless peripherals like mice, keyboards, game controllers and headsets with a software modification to the Wi-Fi rather than having to include a USB wireless receiver in the package.
Ozmo is also focusing on the Consumer Electronics market, where Wi-Fi is gaining traction, and where the ability to support wireless remotes and similar peripherals can be added ‘free of charge’ to a device that already has Wi-Fi.
Since this is a compelling proposition, OEMs in these markets are likely to fall into line relatively easily, and indeed Ozmo has already secured the support of the biggest fish in the PC pond, Intel.
It may be a harder sell to the peripheral manufacturers. For them it’s not just a software upgrade. It is a new product line, one that depends on a single source for a key component and that sells into a currently non-existent base of host devices.
On the other hand, the peripheral device manufacturers may not be oposed to a new product line – they already have a plethora of products, using a variety of connectivity technologies including proprietary ones. Adding another one may not be too arduous, especially if it removes the need for a USB part. Ozmo could overcome the non-existent base issue by supplying, or convincing Intel and the other PC Wi-Fi chip vendors to supply, upgraded drivers for legacy Wi-Fi devices.