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Stay Tuned for Bluetooth on Your TV

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LG 42SL8500
LG's Bluetooth-enabled TV

Broadcom (s brcm) today said its Bluetooth radios are inside a new line of televisions from LG Electronics. Earlier this year, its Bluetooth radios made it into televisions from Sharp, while Samsung also has a Bluetooth-enabled TV. The movement to put Bluetooth — a radio technology popular in cell phones, cars and PCs — into television is gaining momentum, and for Bluetooth radio makers like Broadcom and CSR (s csr), it opens up a potentially valuable, new market. DisplaySearch, an analyst firm, expects 205.3 million TVs will sell worldwide in 2009.

Bluetooth on the TV gives consumers the ability to use their cell phones as a remote control, connect wireless headsets to the TV, and stream music from an iPod or other MP3 player to their television or speakers attached to their TV, all without a wire. A representative for the Bluetooth Special Interest Group expects to see more Bluetooth TVs coming to market later this year or early next year.

Bluetooth, which allows for small amounts of data to be transmitted wirelessly, is in 50 percent to 60 percent of cell phones. That could open up opportunities for companies that make both cell phones and televisions, such as LG and Samsung, to link the devices and use mobile phones as remote controls.  Companies like Rovi (s ROVI) (formerly Macrovision) and NDS, which develop interactive on-screen guides for televisions, are exploring how to tie mobile phones into the TV-viewing experience.

A mobile phone tied to the TV would allow different users in the house to immediately bring up personalized profiles filled with content, recommendations and perhaps other social features when they watch television. Additionally, as search becomes more essential for wading through the massive video-verse, using a triple-tap keystroke input like that used for sending SMS messages would allow users to search for what they want to watch without requiring a full keyboard.

Consumers with Bluetooth-enabled PC keyboards (or full QWERTY keyboards on mobile phones) might use those to control the TV as well. Steve McIntyre, senior product line manager for wireless personal area networking products at Broadcom, said that Bluetooth radios are in a variety of existing equipment, so adding the radios to TVs allows consumers to add functionality to their television without buying a lot of new gear. Of course, one does have to purchase a new Bluetooth-capable TV.

Research firm In-Stat today released a report revealing that well over half of respondents in a survey owned a mobile phone with Bluetooth technology, with nearly 60 percent of them using it to connect a Bluetooth headset. As televisions get broadband connections, widgets and ever more content, figuring out ways to navigate TV 2.0 (GigaOMPro subscription required), while optimizing the traditional entertainment offered from the TV, makes Bluetooth a compelling technology to add to these 80-plus-year-old devices. It’s a good thing Bluetooth came back from the dead.

Additional reporting by Chris Albrecht.

9 Responses to “Stay Tuned for Bluetooth on Your TV”

  1. I’m no techy so I can’t address issues from that point of view, but, one huge bonus, which opens bluetooth technology to a potential market, is for those of us who rely on hearing aids to listen to the world around us. I belong to that group. Some of the more recent technology for hearing instruments includes bluetooth compatibility. My understanding is that the hearing aids can be used directly (through a transmitter) to listen to compatible devices with the benefit of having the sound programmed in the hearing aid to match the listeners specific needs. This sounds exciting and I am in search of a new TV.

  2. Ray Mackmurdie

    I am about to buy an LG 42″SL90 that has Bluetooth.
    I am told that if i switch on to my Bluetooth headphones,then the normal sound for other TV watchers is cut off.

    Is this so?

  3. I’m really not sure about having to fire up an iPhone app each time I want to flip channels. Just too much work for me and I imagine for most lazy TV watchers. Bluetooth is sure good for non line of sight remotes, wireless keyboards and wireless transfer of pictures/video.

  4. marie_c

    This is great news as it opens up conversational interfaces between User and IPTV content as well as utilities such as cable menus. Basically, your mobile, as a voice device (which, after all, is what phones used to be all about) will provide a range of interaction, which will include “content applications” and new conversational advertising opportunities (plus, there are VOIP via tv platforms (mainly in Asia) that will expand to this space. So, yes, bluetooth on television sets is a much needed hardware convergence.

  5. Cheese

    With wifi making huge in-roads into the smart phone market and wifi being incorporated by most tv 2.0 aspirants, I don’t see how blue tooth stands a chance. Apart from this, the article ignores a number aspects about the convenience of traditional infra red remote controls over blue tooth – such as standby power consumption in TVs (lower for IR reception than BT reception), the cost of IR remote controls (compared to BT), the convenience of not needing to mate your remote control to your TV each time you want to use it, the fact that you change channels with a IR remote when you wife is using the mobile phone. There are also a number of usability aspects – the remote control is where the TV user experience begins and is designed integrally with the on-screen UI. Using “any” remote control (in the form of a BT enabled device) will severely compromise the experience – for example, typical mobile phones donot have several buttons present on a normal remote control.

    One can still argue the utility of blue tooth – ex., push content from phones to the TV screen. And this where wifi will beat BT hands down.

    So, while Broadcom BT division has one reason to celebrate, I doubt if they will have repeat opportunities.

  6. VoiceOver

    I’m really not sure about having to fire up an iPhone app each time I want to flip channels. Just too much work for me and I imagine for most lazy TV watchers. Bluetooth is sure good for non line of sight remotes, wireless keyboards and wireless transfer of pictures/video.

  7. One of the problems I see with the whole mobile device profile or remote control interactivity is for those who use a cable box/DVR. In that case, being able to use a phone/keyboard as a remote for the TV is pointless because the channel switching has to be done on the cable box, not the TV. There’s already similar issues today with closed captioning and internet interactivity. I would think that between Tivo, DVRs, and general cable boxes, there’s a lot of people that couldn’t make use of this added functionality.

    Also, the last link in the article (about the predicted death of Bluetooth) is pretty funny since it is basically a rant and fails to recognize the security or low-power usage of Bluetooth, which were its main strengths. No wonder it predicted Bluetooth would fail in 2001, and yet its usage is still growing in 2009 :)