Telstra introduces tablet home phone device called T-Hub, but denies it’s aimed at the iPad

Telco giant Telstra has announced a new tablet-like device designed to act as a type of home-phone portal with web browsing capabilities, including a number of apps for entertainment, such as Facebook and YouTube – but the company swears it’s not an iPad copy.

The announcement comes as Telstra’s revenue for fixed-line services is falling, as more customers move to mobile and wireless plans. Chief executive David Thodey has even called the problem “unquestionably…our immediate challenge”.

The T-Hub acts as a device which connects to a Telstra home phone and wireless internet connection. The gadget features a seven-inch touchscreen featuring apps for services including White Pages, YouTube, Twitter and access to BigPond’s online content services such as news and video.

Customers use the device to make calls by scrolling through an in-built contact list function. Telstra boasts users can search through Yellow Pages to find a business or contact and then hit the nearby call button, with the “added convenience” of sending SMS messages.

The company is promoting the T-Hub as a family-oriented device. It says members of a household can use it to coordinate schedules using the diary option, keep up-to-date on scheduled events, with users also able to send SMS messages to the device.

The T-Hub can also load images from a USB stick, enabling it as a type of digital photo frame. Other types of information, such as weather forecasts and news updates, are available to be viewed.

The T-Hub, which is only available to Telstra customers, comes with one cordless handset but can handle five connections. However, calls can also be made using the tablet itself.

But while the similarities to the Apple iPad are obvious, Telstra is quick to dismiss any competition saying the T-Hub is designed to be use in the home only.

“The T-Hub and the iPad are very different devices – this is the next generation home phone designed to be used around the house with great calling capabilities, while the iPad is a mobile tablet designed to be used out of the house with web browsing capabilities,” Telstra’s executive director of marketing, Jenny Young, said yesterday at a briefing.

Young added about 50% of customers surveyed during a trial session use the device in the kitchen, emphasising the T-Hub as a type of home portal device.

But in another move away from Apple’s territory, Telstra also said there will be no development community for the device and that apps will be approved and distributed through the company’s own network.

“The model is where we control the configuration of the applications and the presentation of the applications,” executive director of Telstra’s product team, Craig Turner, told The Age.

“When our customers get this they expect it all to work so we want to make sure that we’re pretty much in control of the applications that are there and the user experience around it.”

Telstra’s revenue for fixed-line services dropped by 6.9% in the six months to 31 December. The T-Hub is a direct assault on that decline, with Turner saying the company is not focused on selling devices themselves but broadband and fixed line services.

The T-Hub will be available next week as part of several different bundle options. Existing Telstra customers can add the device to their home network for $299.

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