There's plenty of reason to be skeptical that a Nokia tablet is actually coming, not the least of which is the poor performance of Windows RT. According to IDC, the OS accounted for a meager 0.5% of tablet shipments in the most recent quarter.
Still, whether Nokia launches a tablet or not, the rumors reinforce one of Microsoft's lingering concerns: Aside from itself, almost no one believes in Windows RT.
The spec list and release date rumors originated on Microsoft-News.com, which cited a "tipster." According to the site, the device will be powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 processor and will feature a 10.1-inch 1080p screen, 32 GB of storage, USB ports and cellular support from AT&T. The report also claimed that the device can be connected to a detachable keyboard, a la Microsoft's Surface models.
[ Does 3-D make a difference to you? Read Microsoft Touts Windows 8.1 3-D Printing. ]
The specs sound promising, especially the cellular support. Many Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets are limited to Wi-Fi, which restricts their utility as mobile devices.
Still, without pricing information, it's difficult to handicap the tablet's chances. Microsoft believes Windows RT 8.1 can rehabilitate the platform's image via UI refinements, improved native apps, access to Outlook and other enhancements. Maybe so. But Windows RT has neither the iPad's brand loyalty nor Android's cost competitiveness. Even after being discounted, the current Surface RT is still questionably priced at $349 for the base model. If Nokia doesn't price its product substantially below that mark, it's hard to see the device succeeding.
Virtually all major OEMs have abandoned Windows RT. Asustek CEO Jerry Shen, whose company was the latest RT defector, recently remarked that the tech industry unanimously perceives the platform as a failure. Microsoft has already lost hundreds of millions on its Surface RT tablet. A recent lawsuit even claims that Microsoft misled investors by not admitting earlier that the Surface RT was an "unmitigated disaster."
The conditions certainly don't give Nokia much incentive to enter such a competitive market. Still, Nokia is also the only true Windows Phone 8 player, especially if there is any truth to reports that HTC is planning to focus exclusively on Android. Perhaps Nokia plans to capitalize on the market for all of Microsoft's ARM-based devices.
If Nokia launches an RT tablet, it will likely join two new Surface RT devices that Microsoft is reportedly developing itself. With new iPads coming and the Nexus 7 already setting a formidable cost-to-quality standard, the devices would face a challenging market.
Nevertheless, Microsoft has reason to actively recruit new partners; with Windows RT 8.1 coming in October, new models will be essential to the OS's prospects. If Nokia believes the update will convert old critics and win new fans, perhaps the Windows RT platform can't be counted out just yet.