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Claims of camera-equipped Apple tablet disputed

Conflicting reports have emerged this week on whether Apple's forthcoming tablet will include a camera, with one company executive suggesting the device could be used for Web conferencing, while a technology pundit disputes those claims.

In a brief mention Tuesday on his blog, Daring Fireball, John Gruber disputed a claim made earlier in the week by an executive with France Telecom. Stephane Richard had spoke briefly about the prospect of video conferencing with Apple's tablet.

"For what it's worth, I'm hearing there is no camera, webcam or otherwise, on The Tablet," Gruber wrote Tuesday.

France Telecom is the owner of wireless provider Orange, which exists in numerous countries across Europe. Orange on Monday issued a retraction to Richard's statements, and said the executive 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 available."

Orange is the fifth largest wireless carrier in the world, with more than 189 million customers. With Apple rumored to hold an event Jan. 27 to announce the device, some had speculated that Richard could have possible inside information on the tablet, if it were to be a 3G-connected device that would run on the Orange network.

Last year, AppleInsider first reported that the 10-inch, 3G-enabled table, akin to a jumbo iPod touch, would arrive in early 2010. Recent rumors have suggested the tablet could be compatible with the largest wireless provider in the U.S., Verizon. Access to a CDMA network would be a break from the iPhone, which currently only operates on GSM-based networks like AT&T.

Prior to Richard's comment about video conferencing, little was said about the prospect of a camera on Apple's still-unannounced device. A recent report by The Wall Street Journal said the hardware would ship in March, and would serve as a "multimedia device that will let people watch movies and television shows, play games, surf the Internet and read electronic books and newspapers."

The tablet's potential role as an e-reader began to pick up steam last year when rumors surfaced about Apple contacting print publications about providing their content for the touchscreen device. At the time, it was said that people with The New York Times, McGraw Hill and Oberlin Press were involved in the Cupertino, Calif., company's plans.