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Summary:

Rumors are again surfacing that Nokia plans to build and sell a 10-inch Microsoft Windows RT tablet. Whether this is true or not, there isn’t much upside for Nokia here: it doesn’t have expertise in this area, and it can’t afford another product flop.

Surface RT stand

Nokia is rumored to be developing its own Windows RT slate in order to test the market. According to industry hardware watcher Digitimes, Nokia has discussed the project with Microsoft, Qualcomm and Compal Electronics, which would partner to support such a tablet in order for Nokia to test the market. According to Digitimes’ industry sources, a Nokia designed Windows RT tablet was actually planned prior, but held up due to Microsoft’s own Surface RT product.

“Nokia originally planned to develop a 10-inch Windows RT tablet equipped with Qualcomm’s S4 processor in first-quarter 2012, with Compal to undertake ODM production and initial shipments of 200,000 units to test the market, the sources indicated.

But because Microsoft later announced Surface, and the market for Windows 8/RT tablets needed to be proven, Nokia internally focused on smartphones, and delayed the development of the 10-inch Windows RT tablet, the sources pointed out. “

Digitimes doesn’t have a perfect track record when it comes to such news, so I’m not yet sold on this actually happening. But Nokia has attempted to break into the Windows laptop market in the past. Amid falling phone sales, the company debuted the Nokia Booklet 3G netbook back in 2009.
Nokia_Booklet_3G_Group03_lowresEven if it this report does turn out to be true, I think it would be a mistake for several reasons. Experimentation is good, but Nokia isn’t in a position for a potential product flop. It’s simply too risky to debut a product — even as a market test — with hopes of success.

If such a test shows little to no consumer interest, analysts won’t be kind to the event. I’m also unsure of what Nokia has to offer the Windows RT market that would make such a product standout from competitors.

For smartphones, the company has a rich history in radio communications plus excellent camera sensors and optics. Could these help a Nokia-branded Windows RT tablet stand apart from the crowd? Color me leery. Camera benefits on a 10-inch tablet — which is the size being bandied around — aren’t likely to attract buyers. Integrated mobile broadband capabilities might, but these typically come with the baggage of a carrier contract; something the market has shown isn’t desirable for tablets.

Another thought: Part of what got Nokia into its current situation was product focus. The company at one time literally had a phone model for nearly every possible type of user, creating hundreds of unique designs. In short, instead of concentrating research, development and effort on fewer, better products in the line, Nokia wasn’t in a position to compete with the current smartphone kings.

There are other reasons for today’s challenges at Nokia, but product line focus is certainly one. Instead of divesting resources on a totally different product line with a smaller current audience (based on smartphone vs. tablet sales) where it has no expertise, building a Windows RT tablet seems like folly at this point in time.

That’s just my reasoning and it’s certainly arguable so share you thoughts in the comments. And to make things even simpler, jump into our yes-or-no poll on if Nokia should build a Windows RT device.

  1. It matters not. Regardless of what they do now, Nokia has made their bed. They are going down with Microsoft, and not even a spiffy new craptablet will save them.

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    1. They are not going down with MS, they are going down for MS. MS has had a long string of partners that bit the dust. Nokia is just the latest one.

      Remeber Sega Dreamcast? It had WinCE in it.

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  2. I’m beginning to wonder why a company would want to build any Windows device other than a PC.

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    1. I agree with that, especially now that Microsoft has now fully committed to being a hardware company.

      Not only do OEMs have to compete against Microsoft which has a huge information advantage in terms of the OS, but they will also have a huge cost disadvantage given that the OS is not free like Android is.

      I think Google and Microsoft have taken very different postures on their flagship devices. With Google they actually partner with an OEM to make the Nexus devices. Microsoft on the other hand is approaching their flagship Surface device in the manner of Apple. I just don’t see how this is going to be work if Microsoft still wants to maintain a good relationship with their OEMs partners.

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      1. Maybe you can explain how Google’s concept works. That’s the one I can’t figure out.

        If Google partners with an OEM to sell a product at the lowest price possible, how can the other Google OEMs compete. The Google tablet is already $200.00 , does LG and Samsung become the premium suppliers selling at a higher cost when the flagship Google device does everything for less. Won’t the Google OEM just loose money in the end. Is Google sharing the advertising profit with the OEMs, I don’t think so.

        MS model is to create a premium model, which means it’s little bit more than usual which leaves the MS OEMs a breadth of prices ranges to slot themselves into. The only thing MS OEMs are forced to do is to come out with half decent hardware.

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      2. @clue88 Actually, the “flagship Google device does everything for less” argument doesn’t fly. Nexus devices omit features like external storage capability, connectivity options (eg. no LTE in Nexus 4), etc. Other OEMs can also add their own apps and UI to add value; many would call that ‘bloatware’, but OEMs like Samsung and Sony add TouchWiz and Timescape because they believe it adds value and there must be some people who actually agree.

        MS, on the other hand, is more limiting. Sure, OEMs can add their own apps, but they certainly can’t replace the UI. They could add their own unbelievable hardware features, but if the APIs provided my MS don’t allow it to be tapped into, it’s useless.

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  3. I don’t see how Nokia is going to benefit from making a tablet when from all appearances Microsoft’s own Surface tablet is struggling.

    If Nokia makes a tablet it will be a waste of resources, and they don’t have enough to spare for such a speculative bet.

    What they really should do is work on getting an Android phone out to market so that they aren’t so tied to Microsoft’s phone OS, which has not caught on and maybe never will. At least with an Android device they know that they would be using a popular phone OS.

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    1. @ jhesr,

      Windows OEM group is now divided between two ecosystems – the low margin trending (except for some Samsung devices) Android smartphone/tablet system and the medium/high margin Windows laptop/desktop/tablet system. Samsung, HTC, Asus, Acer, Sony and even Lenovo and Toshiba to an extent saw the Android way as the better approach to a smartphone/tablet ecosystem. Unfortunately, time proved that the Android business will commoditize way faster than the Windows PC ecosystem ever did. It took 20 years for the PC to even start to commoditize. It took only two years from 2009 till 2011 for the Android ecosystem to commoditize. When the PC ecosystem commoditized, the Microsoft monopoly and the entrenched consumer/enterprise divide helped PC OEMs to whittle down to 8 or 10 major players and the rest 30 or 40 of them being white-box or like vendors. But in the Android ecosystem, the business is more brutal. There is heavy competition from Apple at the high end and the new WP/BBM at the mid-end. While Symbian still provides competition at the low-end. So though Android will survive, the number of OEMs will whittle down to one major one – Samsung – and 4 or 5 smaller ones – like HTC, Asus, Acer, Lenovo, Sony, LG etc. Expect a lot of mergers to occur among the Android OEM camp. On the other hand, only HP and Dell and Nokia are firmly in the Windows Phone camp. So it absolutely makes sense that Microsoft wants HP, Dell and Nokia to make Windows Pro or Windows RT tablets since only they seem to be all in into the Windows camp. Lenovo appears to be a wildcard here. But the very concept of being an Android OEM for smartphones/tablets and being a Windows OEM for desktop/laptops/tablets is confusing as hell, business-wise and to consumers too since branding will get affected.

      I would think that Huawei, ZTE and Lenovo will ultimately emerge as the best Android OEMs in addition to Samsung and Sony mobile while Acer, Asus, HTC and Motorola will suffer. Expect Lenovo to leave the Android tablet camp and to move all into Windows supplychain soon.

      Considering the above it only makes sense that Nokia wants to do a Windows RT tablet. If it is priced at $299, expect a big hit 10″ tablet when it is out.

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  4. only when the fix the n900, still waiting for update.

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    1. Nokia n800. It had 2 SD card slots. Now thats a real fucking tablet.

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  5. Yes, they should build a tablet. That’s probably the only Windows 8 tablet I would consider over the Surface. To me, the mobile phone business is going to peak shortly and the prices driven down until they’re barely profitable. Nokia has no choice but to diversify and the quality of their hardware would best those coming from Dell or HP which have been very disappointing for a while now. I’m really pleased with what Nokia has offered so far in the phone arena and would welcome them to the computer/tablet space. It’s the right time to get in as the current manufactures don’t seem like they’re trying at all and are foolishly getting in on the Google train which will only lead to their demise.

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  6. It seems like most of the Appleheads on here have never heard of the Lumia 920. A Nokia Windows Phone thats selling quite well. The tech industry is ripe for innovation and the only companies innovating with new, clean, fresh tech are Microsoft and Nokia. I think it’s time you Appleheads woke up, don’t you?

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  7. I think it makes more sense for Nokia to make a 7 inch tablet than a 10 inch one.

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  8. Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm Thursday, December 20, 2012

    If they make it with a pen and pen-supported apps, I’m in!

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  9. William Wallace Thursday, December 20, 2012

    ***sigh*** It seems like more and more these days your columns are becoming nothing more than you posturing your “great and wise insight”. How about coming down from your high horse and actually writing something worth reading?

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  10. Liberal Democrat Sunday, December 23, 2012

    Poll: Should author write anymore articles? (I vote no)

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  11. Stefano Tempesta Saturday, December 29, 2012

    I vote yes, diversification is key to survival. Success is determined by buyers and good products, irrespective of the maker / seller. If Windows 8 is a good product, I buy it, and with it I buy a good tablet that meets my needs. If not, I’ll look around for alternatives. What I do want is the possibility to choose: the more the better.

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