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Considering all the issues and upheavals that Nokia (NYSE: NOK) has had in its core business of mobile phones — what with the declining market share, abandoned operating systems, and subsequent switch to a once-competing-but-equally-struggling platform — it’s no surprise that tablets have been absent from the company’s device line-up. Now, it looks like Nokia’s approach is about to change.
According to an interview with the head of Nokia France, Paul Amsellem, in the French financial paper Les Echos (in French; translation here), Nokia will be launching a tablet in the summer of 2012 that will run on the newest iteration of Microsoft’s PC operating system, Windows 8.
He even named the target month for the release, according: “In June 2012, we will have a tablet that runs on Windows 8,” he said to the paper.
This is not the first time that Nokia has referenced making a tablet. Amsellem’s boss, CEO Stephen Elop, has made a number of references to a device but never given details on when one might emerge.
Nor is it the first time that Nokia has talked tablets. At one point, the company had been touting MeeGo, the Linux-based OS that is no longer being developed by creators Nokia and Intel (NSDQ: INTC), as the OS it would use in a future tablet portfolio.
Like Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 platform, which Nokia is now using to make smartphones, Windows 8 will be used by a number of tablet makers. That means that Nokia will be competing not only against Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), the Android pack and RIM (NSDQ: RIMM), but also against the many OEMs developing on the same platform as itself.
(One is illustrated here, shown off during a Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) event debuting Windows 8. HP (NYSE: HPQ) has also said it would be making Windows 8 tablets.)
Nokia is launching its first WP7 device, the Lumia 800, this week in France. And while it touts services like Nokia Maps, it will also be tackling the market with bargain prices. One operator, Bouguyes Telecom, is selling the Lumia 800 for €99 ($133) on a two-year contract, representing a significant discount compared to €129 for Samsung’s Galaxy S2 or €199 for the iPhone 4S under the same contract terms.
Although France has had healthy take-up of mobile data and advanced devices, there is still a lot to play for in the country. Amsellem noted in the interview that more than 60 percent of consumers in France still do not own smartphones.
Tablets have even lower penetration but they are forecast to grow five-fold in the next five years, to 253 million shipments in 2016 from 55 million today, according to research from Juniper Research.
Numbers like that make Nokia’s relatively late entry into that market — the rest of its rivals have spent the better part of the last year, and some longer, trying to make products that will compete head-on with the best-selling iPad tablet from Apple — appear not too late after all.