Skypower Wireless, a Hong Kong electronics manufacturer, yesterday introduced low-cost Bluetooth headsets and adaptors that work with legacy mobile phones. The company hopes the devices will help drive mass-market adoption of the technology. Skypower has developed a Bluetooth adaptor that plugs into the audio output jack on many mobile phones, giving them Bluetooth functions. The company is also developing a mobile-phone battery equipped with a Bluetooth chipset that will work with most Nokia phones. Skypower has developed two headsets. It claims one is the world's smallest Bluetooth headset. Most phone vendors have already put Bluetooth headsets on the market, all priced above HK$1,000. Skypower will offer its EZclip Bluetooth headset at HK$599 in Hong Kong next month. A pack including a Bluetooth adaptor and headset will be sold at HK$899. Speaking at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair yesterday, Mike Wismeyer, executive director of Skypower, said the company was able to produce a cheaper product without compromising quality due to a breakthrough in the chip manufacturing that had resulted in a system-on-chip at less than US$5 per chip. 'Breaking the five-dollar price point is the holy grail in the Bluetooth industry,' he said. 'It brings prices down to more affordable levels, putting it within reach of Mr and Mrs Average Income. 'There are only nine Bluetooth phones in the world. The sector is developing very slowly. There are no Bluetooth phones in Japan, though NEC is supposedly developing one. There are 22 cellphone makers in China and no one is making Bluetooth phones. But the product benefit is clear so I think EZclip will do very well.' Bluetooth is a cable-replacement technology for connecting peripherals, allowing enabled devices such as hand-held computers, mobile phones, MP3 players, household appliances and PCs to communicate with one another. The technology has a range of just 10 feet, spurring the concept of the personal area network. Initially heralded as a pervasive wireless technology, the use of Bluetooth has been hampered by interoperability issues, product glitches, high manufacturing costs, too few Bluetooth products on the market and confusion with other wireless technologies such as the increasingly popular 802.11b or wi-fi standard. Interoperability among Bluetooth products is a sore point for Bluetooth advocates. For example, Ericsson's Bluetooth headset does not work with Nokia's phones. 'The original purpose was indeed for the product of one chipmaker to work with the product of another but in reality it is far more complicated,' said Mr Wismeyer. 'Bluetooth chipsets will work with each other. It's the application software used in the products that causes the problem.' Mr Wismeyer is confident that Skypower's new products will be adopted widely because of their reliability and low prices. The company expects to sell about 30,000 EZclip headsets and 10,000 units of the headset and adapter pack in Hong Kong by next year. The company bought 300,000 Bluetooth chipsets from Microtune, a silicon and systems company in Texas, for HK$25 million. Most of the Bluetooth headsets on the market are reported to have glitches. Many users complain that the headsets often disconnect calls. Interference with other wireless devices in the 2.4 gigaHertz spectrum is frequently cited as a problem. This has led to widespread user frustration. Bluetooth is expected to make a breakthrough next year, according to market research firm International Data Corp. The Bluetooth semiconductor market could grow to US$2.6 billion in 2006 from US$1.6 million this year, the market research firm predicted. Consumers and businesses would purchase 560 million Bluetooth-enabled devices by 2005, market researcher Gartner has projected. The technology received a major boost this year when Microsoft announced its support. It plans to use Bluetooth to eliminate the cables connecting a keyboard or mouse to a PC. Apple Computer also plans to use Bluetooth to wirelessly synchronise a hand-held device to an Apple computer or laptop. Skypower has already become a partner of several distributors in the United States and Europe, including GE-Sanyo and Dextra, to quickly penetrate those markets. In Singapore, the company will set up a partnership with mobile carrier M1 to distribute its EZ series of Bluetooth products.