France welcomes iPhone

Apple's iPhone goes on sale in France at special late-night openings in select Orange boutiques, just in time for the holiday season, an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report quoted Didier Lombard, head of Orange parent France Telecom, as saying that he hopes to sell as many as 100,000 of the cult handset by the end of the year, undeterred by its high price tag.

The iPhone, which combines a cell phone with an iPod media player that also can wirelessly access the internet, has shaken up the 'smart phone' business and set other manufacturers scrambling to add features, the report said.

Named invention of the year by Time Magazine for its design, pioneering software and because it's 'touchy-feely,' the iPhone has won over users since it debuted June 29 in the US.

Apple hopes to sell 10 million iPhones in 2008, helped by its launch in Europe, then in Asia next year, the Associated Press report said.

In a challenge to Apple's strategy thus far to offer its iPhone through an exclusive mobile operator for each region, Orange is selling unlocked handsets to comply with French consumer law.

In France, the unlocked handset will cost 649 euros ($965.32), much cheaper than the 999 euros ($1,485.91) T-Mobile is charging, the report said.