March 14, 2002 10:20 AM PST

Plantronics looks into future of headsets

Plantronics has been producing headsets for telephony and computer speech applications for many years, but it has chosen CeBit 2002 to announce what it sees as the future of speech communications: Bluetooth.

The M1500 is Plantronics' first Bluetooth headset, and includes adapters for all sorts of mobile handsets, so it can interface with PCs and other office devices.

While this isn't the first Bluetooth headset--Ericsson has sold one for some time--it's available with a Bluetooth adapter for the headset port of many phones, so customers can use it even if they don't have a Bluetooth phone.

Mobile phone makers have been trying to offer phones with advanced features, such as phones that can double as an MP3 player, in an effort to lure more people to buy new phones.

The M1500 is a self-contained unit that clips over the ear. Controls are minimal, with a function button for initiating or accepting calls, and a volume control. By pressing the button on the headset, it's possible to answer a call while the phone is still in someone's bag or pocket.

If a phone features voice dialing, customers can make calls through the headset alone. Plantronics is investigating other forms for Bluetooth headsets, so there may be a product in the future for people who aren't willing to have a whole headset clipped to their ear.

While the M1500 is initially being aimed at mobile phone users, Plantronics expects it to be used with other communication systems as well. Plantronics partner Norwood Systems was at the launch to demonstrate an office telephony system based on the Bluetooth headset, Bluetooth access points and a telephony server, giving people the ability to make and receive calls anywhere within range of an access point.

Similarly, several manufacturers are releasing Bluetooth-equipped desk phones, so that once a customer has arrived at the office, they can switch their headset from the mobile to the landline. Integration with other applications, such as speech recognition, shouldn't be far behind.

Jonathan Bennett reported from London.


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