BT Confirms Work On Tablet Phone

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BT has confirmed it is planning a tablet device, but denies that it is intended to rival Apple’s iPad

With more and more tablet devices appearing on the market, another contender may have joined the running, this time in the unlikely guise of British telecoms giant BT.

However BT denies its prototype device is a rival to the Apple iPad, which has achieved impressive sales since it went on sale in the US last month.

Evolution Of The Home Phone

Gavin Patterson, chief executive of BT Retail, unveiled the prototype device during BT’s investor and strategy day on Thursday.

eWEEK Europe UK understands that the touchscreen device is essentially a smartphone for the home, similar in size to a digital photo frame. The prototype is being developed by BT Labs, and there is no brand name, pricing details, or even pictures of the device.

“BT does have an exciting new home device on its way,” a BT spokesman told eWEEK Europe UK. “We expect to make further announcements later in the year and cannot say anything else at this time.”

It is understood that the device will offer visual voicemail, conferencing and email, as well as browsing functionality, so that people can access applications such as checking the weather, news and online shopping.

BT states this is not a device to take outside the house, but it is more an evolution of the phone within the home. It will be used mostly in the kitchen in the morning while having breakfast, when a user doesn’t feel like booting up his or her PC or laptop.

The lack of outside portability suggests that the device would be Wi-Fi only with no 3G capability.

Mini PC And Telephone Combined

“It is like a mini-PC with the telephone of the future,” said chief executive Ian Livingston after the meeting. “Someone also made a reference to it being a bit like the iPad but it is not. It is a different size and shape apart from anything else, but it is meant to stay in the home.”

“Clearly people want to use their phone in a different way,” he added. “We have seen that with smartphones outside the home. So we have been developing a concept around how you get that sort of capability into an in-home environment. Obviously you can make phone calls through it, but it also has a touch screen.”

There is a video interview with Patterson discussing the device, on the Daily Telegraph website.

The device will be larger than the 3.5 inch display found on the iPhone, but smaller than the 9.7 inch screen on the iPad. It is understood that calls can be made or received via a Bluetooth headset, or via an integrated speaker.

BT had earlier announced plans to ramp-up its roll-out of super-fast broadband around the UK. The British carrier previously committed to spending £1.5 billion to roll out fibre to around 40 percent of UK homes by 2012. Instead, now it will invest around £2.5 billion in rolling out fibre to around two thirds of UK homes by 2015.

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