Mobile World Congress 2013 is going to be one humdinger of a show. The big Android OEMs are all going to be in Barcelona, but the Nokia press conference on February 25 is the one to watch out for.
The thing is Nokia is perhaps the only real champion of the Windows Phone OS and the company is rumoured to have a tablet in the works with Microsoft’s Windows RT OS. The same tablet is one of three (or more) devices in the works at Espoo and it is rumoured to be the showstopper announcement from the company at MWC.
While it’s great that Nokia is taking the tablet plunge and the hardware will surely be something to admire, we can’t help but wonder why Windows RT. Don’t get us wrong; Windows RT is a great product. Microsoft has tried their best to give users a seamless experience when switching between a Windows Phone 8 smartphone and a Windows RT tablet. But despite all their efforts, we think that RT is still some way away from being that seamless solution.
Earlier this week, Nokia chief Stephen Elop said that the company is open to any option as far the tablet OS is concerned. So why not Windows Phone 8? It is a known fact that Microsoft has different licensing fees and hardware requirements for their two platforms. Windows RT is significantly more expensive than Windows Phone 8 as far as licensing fees are concerned. An OEM can buy a Windows RT license for $85 (Approx Rs 4,500) and a Windows Phone 8 license for anywhere between $23 and $30 (Approx Rs 1,500). Currently Windows RT licenses are only for tablets and PCs; they have never been sold for a smartphone. Similarly, the Windows Phone 8 license is also not available for devices with screens larger than 7 inches, according to the official hardware requirement of the OS.
A mock-up of a tablet running Windows Phone 8
But 7 inches is a great size for a tablet. The Nexus 7 has a screen that size and the iPad mini is only slightly larger. A 7-inch Nokia tablet would be a hot seller in the market. The pricing however, has to be bang on. India’s price conscious market loves their gadgets on the lower end of the price spectrum. An expensive Windows RT tablet is just one more brick in the wall. An inexpensive Nokia Windows Phone 8 tablet, on the other hand, will stand out in the crowd. The magic number, according to us, is Rs 20,000, though a few thousand rupees more than that won’t hurt Nokia either. In a world of ultra-expensive iPads and Asus Transformers and low-cost Reliance and Micromax slates, Nokia may find a niche.
A Rs 20,000-tablet, which has the Nokia brand behind it and which runs on a simple but effect platform could prove to be more appealing than Windows RT. And there are other ways that Nokia can reduce the price. For one, Nokia can take a cue from Google and ship a tablet with just a decent front-facing camera like the Nexus 7. However, that is only possible if Microsoft relaxes its minimum requirements for a rear camera along with a physical shutter button.
The company can also use a polycarbonate chassis instead of aluminium as it is reportedly going to do with the next-gen Lumias. The display can be of a relatively lower-resolution than the full HD screens that are all the rage nowadays. Microsoft’s guidelines allow 7 inchers to use anything between WVGA and 720p as resolution. Releasing the tablet as Wi-Fi only can also be considered. Windows Phone 8 has a minimum requirement of Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor. This is a last-generation dual-core processor and can be had for last year’s price.
A Windows Phone 8 tablet makes sense for the end user. Both iOS and Android deliver a seamless experience with a very easy learning curves when switching between a smartphone and a tablet. This is not the case when it comes to Windows RT and Windows Phone 8.
Secondly, Win RT does not have essential app support, not that WP8 does, but in comparison it's a little better. There are quite a few apps, which were found on the Windows Phone 8 store but were nowhere to be seen on the Windows RT counterpart. The store for the smartphone OS has more than 1,50,000 apps including quite a few of the popular ones. In comparison, the Windows 8 Store for RT is depleted. Some apps could have been better designed and the UI of the store itself isn't the easiest to use.
While there is no doubt Nokia will sell their Windows RT tablet, should that come to pass, we are inclined to believe they will have less of a problem convincing potential and loyal customers to take up a Windows Phone 8 tablet. It is after all an OS they have come to know over the last couple of years. More importantly, with a price of around Rs 20,000, it'll compete strongly with the likes of the Galaxy Tab 2 310 and perhaps even the iPad Mini cementing Nokia's position once again as a player with whom to contend.
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