More On The Subsidised iPad: France, More Operators Added To Mix

Following yesterday’s news that T-Mobile and Orange plan to sell the iPad at a reduced rate in the UK when bundled with data plans, some more developments…

France Telecom (NYSE: FTE) CEO Stephane Richard said that it will also be selling subsidised iPads in all its retail stores in France in the lead up to Christmas, for €279 (£236; $376).

And another UK mobile operator has confirmed to that it too is in discussions to launch a similar deal – although details have yet to be confirmed.

“We are talking with Apple, of course,” said the executive.

Apple has been considering a “soft Sim” in iPad devices, after abandoning the idea for its line of iPhones when operators protested. But these various subsidy deals may end up derailing that plan, too – especially if they prove to be a successful way of shifting a significant volume of iPads.

It’s unclear still why Apple is starting to allow third parties to sell discounted iPads: whether it’s to do with slow sales, or shifting stock, or gaining a stronger critical mass in the wake of other devices.

These negotiations over selling through operators, however, appear to be quite a step-change for Apple (NSDQ: AAPL). The mobile executive pointed out that in the earliest days of the iPad, Apple’s position was to encourage operators to sell Sims based on one-month deals, “so that users would not get locked in”. Why? One reason might be so that Apple could continue to charge premium prices for their devices, while still passing on some kind of cost reduction to consumers – in the form of them being able to “shop around” frequently for the best mobile deals to use with the device.