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Orange to release budget £200 Android tablet by end of year

A French newspaper says l'Orange is working on an affordable own-brand tablet device, as it sticks two fingers up to Apple.

Orange has a major project in the pipeline -- it's planning to bring out its own Android tablet, working with a "large Asian manufacturer", according to French financial newspaper Les Echos.

Buoyed by the success of its budget Boston smart phone, the network operator wants to bring out a 3G-enabled tablet device on pay as you go for less than €250 (£205). This massively undercuts even the cheapest 3G-enabled iPad, which sells for £529.

It could be even cheaper if shoppers sign up for a contract over a year or two, with the potential price of a tablet up front below €100 (around £80). It aims to release the tablet by the end of 2010.

In a Google translation of the French news story that makes a curious kind of sense, Orange is described as wanting to 'democratise the market shelves' for those who think five hundred-odd quid is a tad too much to shell out for a tablet.

We took a look at the Boston Android smart phone in May, one of a range of own-brand, cheapo Orange smart phones that have high-end features such as Wi-Fi, GPS and a 5-megapixel camera, all for a pay as you go price of under £100.

It's not the first time Orange has launched a tablet though. It brought out the 7-inch WiFi 'Tabbee' last year, but didn't have much of an impact. A tablet sporting Android would be a very different proposition.

The article said that France Telecom, the operator behind the Orange brand, was motivated by a desire to "regain control". Apple holds a huge amount of power over the networks that sell its products, such as Orange, which fears being "bound and gagged" by the conditions it imposes.

Since the advent of smart phones, networks have steadily lost brand power as consumers are more interested in the latest cool phone, rather than the contract it comes on. With a range of own-branded smart phones and tablets at low prices, Orange is trying to tip the balance back its own way.

Would you buy a budget tablet? And is Orange doing the right thing by bringing out a wave of Android smart phones at much cheaper prices than we're used to? Would you prefer a phone from a more established manufacturer, even if it costs more? Tell us in the comments.