Rumors are circulating that Nokia is working with Microsoft, Qualcomm, and Compal Electronics to resume development of a 10-inch Windows RT tablet to market, and that hardware could be unveiled the 2013 Mobile World Congress in February 2013.
The rumor has been sparked to life again by a report over on Chinese tech site DigiTimes. On its own, this might not mean anything (DigiTimes has a patchy track record when it comes to reliability) but the information fits in with chatter I'm hearing from supply chain sources.
Sources also claim that development was halted after Microsoft announced the Surface tablets in order to see if there was a demand for these tablets. If this rumor is true, it seems that the demand question has been answered to Nokia's satisfaction.
It's been hard to bet a bead on Surface sales. Microsoft remains tight-lipped on sales figures -- itself, this is not uncommon, but analysts believe demand has been weak. Web metric data seems to suggest that adoption has been slow, but not as slow as other figures might suggest.
On the plus side, a report suggests that the Surface tablet is the single most popular Windows 8 and RT device in circulation, and that Microsoft is pulling in the same level of license fees from the tablet as it would a PC running Windows and Office.
The real question here is whether Nokia can make a Windows tablet that people want. The company has been financially floundering for some time now, and since (essentially) transforming the company into a Windows Phone maker, things haven't really improved.
While Nokia is renowned for making top quality hardware, it's hard to see what the company can bring to the table that Microsoft, or any of its hardware partners, can't. With the Surface, Microsoft can turn a profit from the hardware by cutting out the middleman -- in this case the OEMs and ODMs -- out of the equation. Other OEMs will have to pay Microsoft a licensing fee for the platform, and this will eat into the margins.
Unless, that is, Microsoft has plans to give Nokia some sort of special status as it did with Windows Phone, and cut a deal. But if that was the case, why didn't Microsoft get Nokia to build Surface?
Is this a desperate grab by Nokia for a market that it hopes might offer salvation, or is there a plan to make this work?
Time will tell.