Nokia lives: company launches iPad rival
In the same year that Nokia sold its mobile devices division – including all the engineers who designed its phones and tablets – it has staged a comeback by launching its own tablet.
The N1 Android tablet has a 7.9in screen protected by Gorilla glass and an aluminium one-piece design. It is expected to be launched in China before being rolled-out to other markets.
It will run version 5.0 of Google's Android, known as Lollipop, but with Nokia's "Z launcher" software atop it. This software attempts to learn which apps you usually want to access at certain times and changes the homescreen depending on what you are trying to do – text messaging a certain contact, for instance. It also allows you to launch apps by writing the first letter of its name on the screen with your fingertip.
"We are pleased to bring the Nokia brand back into consumers' hands with the N1 Android tablet, and to help make sophisticated technologies simple," said Sebastian Nystrom, head of products at Nokia, who announced the N1 at the Slush technology conference in Helsinki.
"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."
This year Microsoft stepped in and bought some of Nokia – not the whole company, but its mobile devices division. It had a mobile operating system few except Nokia wanted to use. It wanted to start selling its own phones running its own software, but had no expertise – what simpler way to go about it than buying Nokia?
That left Nokia as a much smaller company operating in three main areas: telecoms infrastructure, its HERE maps service and “Nokia Technologies” which carried out R&D. All of the company’s mobile phone engineers and know-how now reside inside Microsoft.
This latest launch suggests that it has been quietly working on building up this expertise again since the sale.
The “Nokia” brand name for mobile phones is also currently in the hands of Microsoft: Nokia (the company) also sold Microsoft the right to use Nokia (the brand) on phones for ten years. That means that it is currently not allowed to sell phones bearing its own name, even if it has launched a tablet under the Nokia name.
We now have the slightly surreal situation where you can find the “Nokia 130” – a cheap and cheerful handset that sells for around €25 - on Microsoft’s website, and the Nokia N1 on Nokia's website.
Since the takeover Microsoft also continued selling “Nokia Lumia” smartphones. Until this week, at least. The latest Lumia, the 535, is a “Microsoft Lumia” rather than a “Nokia Lumia”.