Don’t hold your breath for that Nokia tablet

Nokia billboard in Berlin

There are rumors flying around about the possible existence of a Nokia-made Windows 8 tablet. Based on what Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said Monday, though, it looks like a release for such a device is way off.

Acer Iconia W510In a roundtable Q&A at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today, Elop said that tablets may fit into Nokia’s mobile-centric strategy, but he seemed to be more thoughtful than decisive on the matter. He noted that all the assembled journalists had traditional notebooks. Not so, I said, unclipping the tablet part of my Acer W510. What did I think of Windows 8, he asked. A mixed bag, I replied. Another piece of feedback for his fact-finding mission.

What is Elop waiting for in the tablet space, another journalist asked. Three things, he said: Nokia is watching the tablet market evolve; it is “watching the specific platforms and where they stand in terms of maturity”; and it is focused on “understanding and seeing with [its] engineers the ability to differentiate under those conditions”.

Now the prevailing wisdom is that Nokia would go with Windows RT/8 in the tablet space. Is that platform mature? Heck no. Could Nokia differentiate on it? Never say never, but Microsoft is still trying to get its customers to wrap their heads around the RT-desktop user interface split – do we really want to see further customization confusing people at this point of initial education?

How about Android? As a tablet platform, Android still isn’t there yet — that’s a function of its paucity of tablet-optimized apps, rather than any intrinsic flaw. True, Nokia probably has more opportunity for differentiation there, but it’s an extremely tough market, what with Samsung ruling the roost as it currently does. There’s no analogy to be drawn with Nokia’s work on Windows Phone, which no-one dominated when Elop dived in.

No other tablet platform is anywhere approaching maturity – with the exception of iOS, of course, though that’s not an option. And so, while Nokia is probably testing Windows RT/8 and Android tablets in its labs — it would be crazy not to be doing so — by the criteria laid down by its leader we can make a pretty educated guess: that we should not expect Nokia to launch a tablet anytime soon.

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