Thu, Nov 20, 2014 - Page 14 News List

Nokia announces tablet

BEGINNING AGAIN:Nokia returns to the consumer market next year with a tablet that will run Google Inc’s Android and will debut in China before other markets

AP, HELSINKI

Nokia Oyj is back in the fray.

Just months after selling its ailing handsets business to Microsoft Corp, the Finnish company is planning to go back into the consumer market with a new tablet.

The former top mobile phone maker, which has a history of reinventing itself since it began as a paper maker in the 19th century, said on Tuesday it will launch a 7.9-inch device early next year in China, the world’s biggest market, before selling it elsewhere.

The device will be manufactured by Taiwan-based Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密), which makes Apple Inc’s handsets. It will operate Android instead of the Windows software Nokia used on its cellphones when it began a partnership with Microsoft in 2011. That partnership ended unsuccessfully — in April Nokia sold its cellphones unit to Microsoft for US$7.2 billion.

Hon Hai, known in China as Foxconn Technology Group (富士康科技集團), is fully responsible for business execution from engineering and sales to customer care, including liabilities and warranty costs, inbound intellectual property and software licensing, and contractual agreements with third parties, according to Nokia.

Sebastian Nystrom, head of Nokia’s technologies unit, described the N1 tablet as “a new beginning for Nokia.”

He noted that about 80 percent of the world’s mobile consumers use Android, compared with just 2.5 percent using Windows mobile devices. The aluminum-cased tablet uses Google Inc’s Android Lollipop operating system and will retail for US$250.

For sure, it won’t be an easy shift for Nokia after years of focusing on cellphones and a troubled networks operation that only recently has shown signs of improvement.

“It’s pointing in the right direction, but there are some real challenges,” said Neil Mawston from Strategy Analytics, near London. “It doesn’t have the distribution channels that others like Samsung and Apple enjoy, and nobody is making any profits in Android tablets at the moment.”

Nokia’s brand was wiped out of the handset market last week, when Microsoft unveiled its first Lumia smartphone under its own brand name.

“We are pleased to bring the Nokia brand back into consumers’ hands,” said Nystrom, who announced the launch of the tablet in Helsinki at Slush, one of Europe’s largest startup and investor events with about 10,000 participants expected over two days.

He hinted Nokia was also interested in producing an Android smartphone. That can’t happen before 2016, however, as the Microsoft deal included a commitment that Nokia not enter the smartphone business before then.

“Once that is finalized we have the option to do so,” Nystrom told reporters.

Additional reporting by CNA

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