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Orange sticks nose into e-books

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Orange is pondering a foray into Kindle territory. Innovative network application is all very well, but the company wants to go further and make innovative devices to allow its customers to run up their bills in new and interesting ways.

Orange has been practising the delivery of daily newspapers over its 3G network for a while, using devices from iRex with a 3G dongle sticking out of the top. Those trials have apparently "gone well", and though the company representative wouldn't be drawn on the details, he did outline the kind of device Orange was developing to support such a service.

The company won't be trying to squeeze an e-book into punters' pockets; so no clever folding screens or wrap-around displays. But a flexible screen technology will be used to provide more resilience to knocks and bangs - this notion no doubt born out of a painful lesson learnt in the trials. That screen will be around eight inches, the same size as the first version of the Iliad device which was used in the trials. Newspapers and magazines will be sold by subscription, with the latest edition automatically delivered to the device over the phone network - just like the Kindle. It won't feature a keyboard, 'cos only an American would put a keyboard on a book.

One problem the company will need to consider is how the European regulator will react to a device which is locked to one network: Orange may be forced to include a removable SIM so the customer can change networks, after a contract of suitable length - Orange's device will be heavily subsidised to get the price below €100.

Orange has done hardware before, but something like this is more akin to the Orange LiveBox than a branded mobile handset. Punters buying an Orange e-book are buying into a service as well as a brand, and proving that Orange is a service-delivery company, not just an operator of networks. ®

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