Bluetooth gadget turns iPod into stereo remote

By Ina Fried
Staff Writer, CNET

A new Bluetooth device turns the iPod into the ultimate remote control for a home stereo.

Belkin’s TuneStage, which is slated to ship next year, serves as both the controller and the source of the music, wirelessly streaming tunes to the stereo. The device consists of a receiver that connects to a home theater system or stereo and a small transmitter that sits atop Apple Computer’s iPod music player. The iPod can serve up songs from as far as 30 feet from the stereo using Bluetooth, a short-range wireless technology.

“The best remote for an iPod is the iPod,” said Randall Stowasser, product manager for Belkin’s iPod accessory line.

Belkin has not announced a price or an exact shipping date for the device, though the company will show off a pre-production version at the Consumer Electronics Show and Macworld Expo, both of which take place in early January.

Belkin has been kicking around the idea for TuneStage for some time, Stowasser said. The product brought together the company’s right-person iPod accessory team and its Bluetooth unit, which already offers mice, printer adaptors and other gear using the short-range wireless standard.

Apple’s AirPort Express wireless base station can connect to a home stereo and play music stored on a Mac, but it doesn’t have the means to remotely choose songs. The iPod dock, meanwhile, allows the music player to connect to a home stereo, but requires that the device be in the cradle to do so.

“We want people to be able to take it with them,” Stowasser said.

In the past, Belkin has worked directly with Apple to develop accessories, such as its voice recorder and media card reader. However the TuneStage, like several other recent creations, was developed independently.

Other recent Belkin releases include a sleeve that acts as a supplement to the iPod’s built-in battery. The $99 TunePower rechargeable battery pack is a sequel to an earlier product that was cheaper, but somewhat bulkier and used AA batteries.

Even as it continues to branch out on its own, Stowasser said, the company remains open to developing other products with Apple.

“We still value their feedback and involvement whenever they provide it,” Stowasser said. “We continue to share all of our ideas with Apple.”