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Analysis Nokia waited a long, long time before finally launching a tablet last week. The Lumia 2520 unveiled in Abu Dhabi last week is aggressively priced and surprisingly functional. But why the wait?

Rumours of a Nokia tablet have been circulating for two years, since CEO Stephen Elop said that Nokia saw an opportunity in the market. Design chief Marko Ahtisaari confirmed the project 18 months ago while the summer of last year was pegged as a lunch date.

It came and went without any new kit.

A year ago Asian reporters were convinced Nokia would launch in time for Christmas 2012.

Nokia's head of smart devices, Jo Harlow, told The Register last week that Nokia wanted to differentiate itself from rivals, and the obvious differentiator was cellular data. However, the hardware wasn’t ready yet.

“We wanted a truly mobile tablet. We waited because of the compromises we’d have had to make,” she said. “The support for the chipsets and integrated modems wasn’t there.”

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 chips, announced in January, are not only faster but have integrated 4G LTE radio built in. Every 2520 will have a SIM card slot.

The wisdom of waiting was born out by the fate of the first generation Windows RT hardware. Asus and Dell were badly burned - as was Microsoft, which wrote off $900m on its Surface RT hardware, along with HTC, Toshiba and Lenovo. The software was immature and the hardware underpowered - giving you the worst all all worlds. So why bother?

Now RT has matured enough to allow you to get some work done – provided much of your work is based around Microsoft Office – and the hardware no longer holds you back. Nokia’s robust design also shows signs of common sense. Microsoft made the Surface a showpiece for all kinds of whizzy technology innovation, and the Surface Touch Cover 2 boasts an array of 1,092 sensors. Nokia simply designed a very good keyboard.

So last week saw two products, the Lumia tablet and Surface RT that will shortly be managed by the same company. Differentiating isn’t hard, though, and the appeal of Nokia’s tablet, with its chuck-it-in-a-bag practicality, is pretty clear. Managing the Lumia tablet and Surface isn’t Microsoft’s biggest headache – it’s explaining why you should be interested in RT at all.

Harlow told us that Nokia also wished to differentiate itself with its bundled software. She cited the really quite impressive StoryTeller movie maker app. But this highlighted the schizophrenic nature of the RT caper itself. Is it a consumer product that can do a bit of Outlook? Or is it a mobile Office product that can do a bit of multimedia?

When Microsoft finally completes the acquisition of Nokia’s 32,000-strong mobile unit it will boast 120,000 staff in all. Surely there’s one in there who can find a way of explaining RT to the so-far uninterested masses. Thanks largely to Nokia, RT is looking less of a basket case and something with a bit of potential. ®

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