Nokia has surprised the world by getting back into mobile devices a lot faster than anyone could ever have imagined post Microsoft digesting Nokia’s previous smartphone and tablet business.
Just over the past few days, Nokia executives denied they were getting back into smartphones, but no-one expected this to mean that Nokia was just days away from releasing its very first Android tablet.
Dubbed the N1, a return to Nokia’s naming conventions of old, Nokia has even whipped up its own skin dubbed the ‘predictive Nokia Z Launcher interface’.
It seems a clue to what could have been had Stephen Elop’s burning platform memo never emerged, and had Nokia never sold part of itself to the wreckers of Redmond, although Nokia sure did earn itself a big stack of pretty pennies in the process.
It seems at least some of that cash has gone into what Nokia says is the N1’s ‘carefully crafted industrial design with a focus on simplicity’, something Nokia’s Symbian platform sorely needed.
But don’t expect to buy this tablet before Christmas - sadly Nokia was just not that organised, because this tablet won’t see the light of day until Q1 2015, and only in China at first, although it will spread to other markets.
That China thing is a big clue, too, because it turns out that Nokia isn’t actually making the tablets itself, but has instead ensure the N1 is brough to market /through a brand-licensing agreement with an OEM partner responsible for manufacturing, distribution and sales.’
And so we see Sebastian Nyström, Head of Products at Nokia Technologies stating that: “We are pleased to bring the Nokia brand back into consumers' hands with the N1 Android tablet, and to help make sophisticated technologies simple. The N1 has a delightfully intuitive interface and an industrial design to match it. This is a great product for Nokia fans and everyone who has not found the right Android tablet yet."
That said, Nokia hasn’t left it all up to its OEM partner. Nokia boasts that the N1's ‘industrial design and Z Launcher application originate within the Nokia Technologies business’, which Nokia will use to strengthen its patent, tech and brand licensing portfolio.
However, Nokia is licensing the design, the Z Launcher and the IP on that chunk of profits we spoke of earlier, with Nokia describing it as a being ‘on a running royalty basis to the OEM partner’.
As we said - clever Nokia. The OEM is, as it turns out, ‘responsible for full business execution, from engineering and sales to customer care, including liabilities and warranty costs, inbound IP and software licensing and contractual agreements with 3rd parties.’
So, what of this mysterious Z Launcher? It has nothing to do with Zombies, thankfully, but it may well be World War Z against all other tablet makers.
Z Launcher lets you scribble letters on the screen to find content and apps, with that ‘predictive’ bit way above the top of this article enabling Z Launcher to not only learn the apps you use, but to predict the apps you’ll want ‘based on time of day and location’.
And when it comes to the industrial design Nokia is vaunting, we’re talking about a single piece of aluminium with a ‘soft finish’ in grey and the silver-style colour that aluminium comes in - at least for the back of the device, with the front sporting a look that you could pretty easily mistake for an iPad mini.
That is even more so when you learn the screen is 7.9-inches with a laminated display, with a thinness/thickness of just 6.9mm.
And there’s a couple more interesting specs that Nokia has announced - it is running Android Lollipop 5.0 and Nokia - or at least its OEM partner - has taken Intel marketing cash to ensure a quad core Intel Atom processor running at 2.4GHz inside.
Whether this tablet will make any kind of serious dent in a world already flooded with ARM and Intel-powered Atom tablets is yet to be seen, especially as Apple nevertheless sells bucket loads of iPads with very healthy margins.
There’s also talk that Intel will cease its very expensive marketing and subsidy efforts for Atom processors in tablets next year, so the big question now is whether we’ll ever see an N2 from Nokia and its partner, and whether it will end up going back to ARM if Intel subsidies dry up.
Until then, Nokia has joined the tablet arms race, but with an Intel processor and Nokia’s extremely late entry into the Android tablet game, let’s hope it isn’t fighting this battle with an arm tied behind its back - or is that without an ARM tied into the system?