According to a report from The Verge, Nokia (NYSE:NOK) will soon announce a tablet running Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows RT operating system that will sport Nokia's Lumia design. The device, codenamed "Sirius," will feature a 10.1-inch screen, LTE, Qualcomm's (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon 800 processor and pricing similar to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad.
The report, citing unnamed sources, said Nokia will announce the tablet at a launch event in New York City Sept. 26. (Interestingly, the fall could be a busy time for Nokia: The company is reportedly testing a 6-inch phablet device running the latest Microsoft Windows Phone software with AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), and plans to release the gadget before year-end, according to a separate report from The Verge.)
A Nokia representative declined to comment on the company's tablet plans.
If Nokia does release a tablet, the device would represent a significant evolution in Nokia's strategy. The company--once the world's largest mobile phone manufacturer--famously retired its Symbian line of smartphones in favor of Microsoft's Windows Phone smartphone operating system, and currently Nokia is by far the largest and most vocal supporter of Microsoft's smartphone platform. Indeed, consumers across the globe purchased 7.4 million Windows Phone devices in the second quarter, up from 4 million in the year-ago period and corresponding to 3.3 percent smartphone market share, Gartner said, mainly due to sales of Nokia's Lumia Windows Phone devices.
If Nokia expands its business into Windows tablets, the action would further cement the relationship between Finland's Nokia and Redmond, Wash.'s Microsoft.
However, if Nokia throws its support behind Microsoft's Windows RT operating system, Nokia would likely face a serious uphill climb. Microsoft just last month announced it would take a $900 million writedown due to sluggish sales of its Surface Windows RT tablet. And other Windows RT tablet vendors, such as Asus, have discontinued selling the devices due to weak demand.
Moreover, the tablet market has proven difficult for a number of companies, including iPad vendor Apple. In its most recent quarter Apple reported shipping 14.6 million iPads, far below analyst expectations. And other tablet vendors have faced even greater challenges: For example, BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) has essentially withdrawn from the tablet market after recording relatively weak sales of its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. Last month, the head of BlackBerry's PlayBook tablet division announced he would leave the company shortly after CEO Thorsten Heins announced that BlackBerry would not upgrade the device to its latest software--effectively orphaning the gadget.
This isn't the first time Nokia has been tied to the tablet market. The company in 2005 released the 770 Internet tablet, powered by its Linux-based Maemo operating system, though sales of that device and its successors eventually fizzled. More recently, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said in 2011 that the company is not going to rush a tablet to market just to join in the device cavalcade, and will instead focus on ensuring that the device has a "uniquely Nokia perspective."
"There are now over 200 different tablets on the marketplace, only one of them is doing really well," Elop said at the time. "And, my challenge to the team is, I don't want to be the 201st tablet on the market that you can't tell from all of the others. We have to take a uniquely Nokia prospective."
As for the overall tablet market, Gartner predicts shipments will grow from 202 million this year to 276 million next year.
- see this Verge article
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Article updated Aug. 27 with comment from Nokia.