Nokia (NOK) has released the first Windows Phone 8 phablet, as well as its own Windows RT tablet. Given the path that Nokia is currently on to become a hardware division of Microsoft (MSFT) — as a high-profile acquisition supporting that company’s strategy to transform into a services and devices powerhouse — the tablet release in particular is a little odd.
The big screen smartphone will hep the Windows Phone 8 platform to be more competitive against Android, but runs the risk of further alienating Microsoft’s other hardware partners, notably Samsung (SSNLF) which has made a name for itself as a phablet pioneer on the Android side.
The new Windows RT-powered Lumia 2520 checks off all the boxes when it comes to specs, including a powerful quad-core Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm (QCOMM), a 10.1-inch HD display, optional cover with built-in keyboard and trackpad (along with an auxiliary battery) and double-digit battery life. It starts at $499, includes LTE wireless capability and takes design cues from Nokia’s Lumia smartphones with a glossy, colorful shell. Early reviews consider it a very attractive and well-designed tablet.
We’re heading into a holiday shopping season where tablets are going to be front and center in the competition for consumer dollars. Every major manufacturer has refreshed its products for the coming battle — including Apple, which wrapped up its iPad event earlier this week, revealing the new iPad Air. Microsoft also recently unveiled its own Surface 2 tablet (dropping the RT from the title), despite dismal sales of the original Surface RT.
But there’s a question lingering under all of this news. Product development has long cycles, and Nokia’s tablet has obviously been in the pipeline for a while. There’s an investment in R&D to be recouped and no better time for a sales pop than the holiday quarter. That being said, why gamble on releasing the tablet at all, given that Microsoft took a $900 million hit on its own version, and every other Windows RT vendor, from Dell (DELL) to Lenovo (LNVGY) has abandoned the platform? Especially when Microsoft has regrouped and is taking another crack at it — meaning you’ll be competing directly against the heavily promoted Surface for limited Windows RT tablet buyers.