In this week's Gizmag post (forwarded by friend Dave C), there's info about an Italian manufacturer, Tiso, that's releasing an electronic shifting group. From the article:
Apparently just called the Wireless 12-Speed Groupset, the system consists of brake levers with integrated rocker-style shifter switches, micromotor-equipped front and rear derailleurs, a cassette with 12 titanium sprockets ranging from 11 to 29 teeth, and a downtube-mounted AAA-battery-powered receiver/control unit.
Shift signals are transmitted from the shifters to the control unit via Bluetooth and/or another unspecified type of radio protocol – Shimano and Campagnolo’s systems, by contrast, use electrical wiring. Commands are then carried from that unit to the derailleurs by wires. Interestingly, users can forgo the brake lever shifters and instead change gears using a wireless key fob-like remote. This is perhaps intended as a way of letting riders change gears when riding with their hands on top of the bars or in the drops.
I like the idea of the remote key-fob thingie for the aero bars, and I like it that there's another source besides the Big Three (the other one is SRAM, although Nashbar also sells brake-shifter controls under their own brand). But I'm a bit disappointed with the rush to electronic shifting (probably the way some bicycle enthusiasts are disappointed with the integrated brake-shifter, or "brifter", control; some riders pine for the old friction shifters and separate brakes; see Grant Petersen at Rivendell Bikes for an example). One of the many things I get up on my soapbox about is bike technology (sit back; here it comes). From a materials standpoint, modern bikes have all the latest stuff: new plastics, carbon fiber, specially-alloyed metals. But from a mechanicals standpoint, a bike with cabled controls has old technology: gears, wires, levers. Leonardo da Vinci might have figured it out (he didn't, but he might have). I love this juxtaposition. I also love it that I can take the bike down to parts and put it back together (and I do, every year), and that I can fix almost everything that goes wrong on mine (and I do that, too).
On the other hand, Tiso is announcing that the price will be lower than current offerings from The Other Guys. And that's probably a good thing. (There's also the fact that there are few people who care about the mechanicals of the bike as much as I do -- most riders just want a bike that does what they want, whether that is to ride fast, carry stuff, or survive being ignored and abandoned until the next time they take it into their heads to ride it.)