Stay Tuned for Bluetooth on Your TV

LG 42SL8500

LG's Bluetooth-enabled TV

Broadcom 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, 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 (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.

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