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Monday, January 11, 2010, 05:05 am PT (08:05 am ET)

France Telecom exec implies Apple tablet to have 3G, Web cam [u]

An executive with wireless operator France Telecom suggested in an interview Monday that Apple will soon release a tablet equipped with a Web cam, and Orange customers across Europe will be able to use the device.

Stephane Richard, the second in command with France Telecom, owner of Orange, simply said "oui" to a couple of questions Monday about a tablet with a Web cam. When asked if Orange customers will be able to use Apple's tablet, he said, in French, "of course."

Update: Although Richard went on to talk about the prospect of video conferencing with the device, Orange later issued a retraction on the executive's statements.

"These responses in no way reflect Orange’s confirmation of the existence of the rumoured device," the company said. "The spokesperson was merely confirming that he is aware of the speculation surrounding a launch and that Orange would be delighted to have such a product were it ever to be available.”

Richard did not volunteer the information, but rather responded by saying yes to a series of tablet-related questions from journalist Jean-Pierre Elkabbach. Nowhereelse.fr captured the video and relayed the information. A translation of the exchange follows:

    Elkabbach: According to weekly Le Point, in a couple of days Apple will be launching its tablet computer...
    Richard: Yes.
    Elkabbach: ...equipped with a webcam.
    Richard: Yes.
    Elkabbach: Are Orange customers going to be able to enjoy it?
    Richard: Of course!

Orange previously had an exclusive arrangement with Apple to offer the iPhone in France, though the nation's competition counsel ruled that exclusive relationship to be illegal. But France Telecom still sold 200,000 iPhones in December, Richard revealed Monday in Paris.

Orange is primarily based in Europe and Africa. It is the fifth largest wireless carrier in the world, with more than 189 million customers.

Stateside, recent rumors have suggested that Apple could make its anticipated touchscreen tablet compatible with the Verizon network. It has been speculated that Apple could offer subsidized and non-subsidized options for customers.

Apple is rumored to hold an event Jan. 27 to announce its tablet, expected to have a screen size between 10 and 11 inches and be akin to a jumbo iPod touch. While Apple is expected to reveal the product this month, reports have said it will not likely ship until March.