4 new announcements out of the Apple-esque Orange event

Nov 21, 2012
Vote on Hacker News

Orange AppleThis morning, twitter is buzzing with the set of announcements coming out from telecom giant Orange‘s event Orange Hello. Creating a lot of buzz internationally and covered by TC & TNW, the event included the launch of new iPhone app Libon in 95 countries (available on Android soon), the launch of a new multimedia mobile sharing service Joyn, as well as a strategic partnership with Facebook. They also announced a new internet Box, dubbed LiveBox Play, combining connected TVs and a Wii GamePad-style controller.

Libon – Orange ahead of the game in the everchanging MNO Market

Orange LogoThis announcement by Orange was probably the most interesting, dispite the fact the product itself has been known about, previously called “On Voicefeed” (see TNW review). I think TNW writer Martin Bryant put it best, saying that Orange is disrupting itself, in that Libon is the kind of product you would expect a startup to develop to disrupt network providers like Orange. Users will be able to check voicemail, send chat, and do VOIP calls, all via the Libon app. The free-to-download app has a free part, where you can call any Libon app user (think Skype), and a premium monthly subscriptiong of 2,69€ to call regular numbers – again, think Skype, but monthly subscription. You can try out the premium version for free for 60 days, though it limits you to 60 minutes. You can also connect your Twitter & Facebook accounts.

One of the interesting features is that Libon can transcribe your voicemails from voice to text. It is currently available in English, French & Spanish – the markets Orange is present in.

To be honest, the app is pretty sexy. I created an account fairly painlessly, except that my super complicated apple ID password didn’t work on Libon, so I had to use my “super easy to hack if you really cared” password. Feel free to sync up with me on it or send me pitches through it.

Sheryl Sandberg announce partnership between Facebook & Orange

Orange was then joined by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg – at least by pre-recorded video. This was around the time where I realized that this was not just an Oh Shit Moment for France, but for the world. The partnership with Facebook is still in early testing – in fact, Orange users who are on Facebook will be prompted to try out what looks to be Google Hangouts but with Facebook – fluid transitions between private messaging and video calling, the ability to transfer multimedia during a call, and the ability to invite people to the group call.

I couldn’t find any indication on the Orange Facebook Page of how to sign up, but it seems like it’s in private beta for now.

Joyn – Photo & Video sharing for everyone

Joyn has existed for quite sometime, originally developed by Movistar. The service is currently available on Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica (i.e: Movistar), & Vodafone. It seems that Oragne will be allowing the service “soon,” though it seems to be in direct competition with Libon, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

LiveBox Play

Livebox Play ControllerLiveBox Play comes at a point where Orange, a major provider of cable TV in France, is looking to survive the transition from TV to “connected TV,” or as I call it, the Internet. Their new version will support TVs, Internet, game systems – the works – and will include a second screen remote, that will include a keyboard on one side, and a touch screen/TV navigator on the other, allowing TV viewers to interconnect their TV-viewing experience.

As someone who has long given up on TV, this sounds like a compromise that will be attractive to many – time will only tell how much TV will change until it resembles an Xbox controller.

4G for everyone – I mean, Paris, Lille, Lyon, and Nantes – and not now.

Orange also announced what everyone already knew – its 4G network, set to roll out in Paris’ largest metropolitan cities, won’t be up until 2013. It’s likely all of the networks’ 4G networks will be up and running more or less at the same time, with Bouygues looking to convert one of its networks to 4G specifically for the iPhone 5.

Not quite Apple, but easily on par with Free Mobile

Over all, in spite of the fact that Orange CEO Stephane Richard spent most of his time reading from cue cards located about 3 inches below the camera, did a pretty good job of creating an atmosphere of innovation that anyone could get behind. I would’ve liked to see the launch event in English, or at least the part about Libon, considering it’s an international app that could disrupt several markets at once, but Orange has positioned itself as someone ahead of the telecom curve, so bravo.

The event itself wasn’t quite on par with some of Steve Jobs’ phenomenal announcements, but it was the first solid comeback to Xavier Niel‘s launch at the beginning of the year that rivaled in hype and buzz. Kinda makes a guy bummed he signed up for Bouygues a year ago…

Have you tried Libon or Joyn yet? What do you think of it?