Former handset maker Nokia is pitching a curve ball with the debut Tuesday of its N1 tablet, a 7.9-inch tablet poised to delight consumers and irk Microsoft.
Nokia went through the weekend posting images on Twitter of a black box that bore its name, just days after telling analysts the world hadn't seen the last of its brand imprinted on consumer electronics. Microsoft completed its $7.2 billion purchase of Nokia's handset business in April.
"The Nokia brand is still extremely powerful and we see considerable interest in licensing. We will pursue it ... in a thoughtful and considered way," said Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri.
After opening the black box it teased all weekend and into Monday, Nokia revealed a new piece of hardware bearing its brand. It was revealed Nokia now has a licensing agreement with Taiwan's Foxconn, which explains the N1's release schedule.
The N1 will land in China in the first quarter of 2015 and the tablet will be available for $250. Nokia hasn't committed to prices or release windows for other regions, though it says it expects to make the N1 available in other markets.
As part of the deal with Foxconn, Nokia will set standards for the hardware the Taiwanese manufacturer ships under the Nokia brand. The entity behind the licensing deal is Nokia's newly formed Nokia Technologies division.
Ramzi Haidamus, Nokia's technology chief, says the N1 beats out the iPad in all categories, including cost. And Nokia to clearly getting ready to license a lot more hardware.
"It's the first of many coming: more SKUs, more sizes, more features," says Haidamus. "We will go beyond tablets for sure."
With Nokia recently reporting its revenue grew year-over-year for the first time since 2011, Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, says it makes sense the former handset maker would seek to extract value from its brand as soon as possible. Still, the move came as a surprise, says Wood.
"I'm surprised how quickly Nokia has decided to do this. But equally, if Nokia was going to do anything with its brand, it was going to have to do it quickly," Wood says.
The resurgence of Nokia's brand comes as Microsoft abandons its rights to use the Nokia brand name for 10 years to place its name on products. Microsoft recently stamped its name atop the Nokia Lumia line, now branded Microsoft Lumia, and is planning to dissolve the Nokia app store into Opera's market.