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Photos: A look inside France Telecom's Boston R&D labs

IP conferencing, Widgets for mobiles and WLAN-to-GSM roaming

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Topic: Mobility
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1 of 7 Sylvia Carr/ZDNet

IP conferencing, Widgets for mobiles and WLAN-to-GSM roaming

Here's an exterior view of France Telecom's Boston research and development lab, one of the company's 14 labs worldwide. The R&D operation employs a total of 4,200 researchers, 15 of whom are located here in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

France Telecom is pushing R&D as a way to boost innovation and beat its competitors. It plans to raise its R&D budget - currently about €600m or 1.5 per cent of France Telecom's turnover - by 50 per cent from 2005 to 2008.

All photos: Sylvia Carr

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2 of 7 Sylvia Carr/ZDNet
This quote represents the type of far-reaching research the lab aims to conduct.

Eric Dufresne, MD of the France Telecom Boston R&D Lab, said: "We're not trying to deliver standard products but investigate new and emerging technologies."

At the same time, the researchers' work is guided by what France Telecom's customers want.

Dufresne said: "We're very focused on what the customers expect from us - to do the right thing. We need to understand our customers' needs."

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3 of 7 Sylvia Carr/ZDNet
One of the areas the Boston lab focuses on is voice over IP (VoIP) for the enterprise.

Here Clement Lizhtenauer of France Telecom-owned Equant demonstrates how, with the company's Business Everywhere product, one can place a VoIP call while simultaneously sending a large file and videoconferencing to a colleague - and the quality of the voice transmission does not degrade significantly.

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4 of 7 Sylvia Carr/ZDNet
During the teleconference, we speak with Equant employees in Chile, France and London. The man shown in the large, centre section of the screen is calling from a softphone on his laptop, and is connected to the VPN from a Wi-Fi network in a Paris airport. The sound quality and frame rate were pretty impressive.

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5 of 7 Sylvia Carr/ZDNet
This screenshot shows how the Business Everywhere software prioritises data traffic based on what's needed to ensure high-quality communications. The red line is voice data, the blue line a file and the green line is video.

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6 of 7 Sylvia Carr/ZDNet
France Telecom is keen to expand the types of services offered on its Orange-branded mobiles. To this end, the Boston R&D lab worked with the Mozilla Foundation to create an open-source mobile browser called Minimo, which runs on any Windows CE-based device and is still in alpha.

The lab is now developing a 'Widgets for mobiles' scheme - much like the Widgets for the Mac OS - whereby third-party developers can easily create simple applications such as currency converters or world clocks for mobile devices.

Here Brenda Belleville, director of marketing for Equant North America, shows off a widget which allows for the easy tracking of packages online from a Minimo-powered device.

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7 of 7 Sylvia Carr/ZDNet
France Telecom also demoed technology which allows mobile phones to seamlessly roam between WLAN and GSM networks, a project still under development at the labs.

Here you see fellow journalists moving through the halls of the lab to test the service on the Motorola phones provided for us.

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