Nokia, Microsoft attempt to rain on Apple's parade
Both Nokia and Microsoft - soon to be part of the same smartphone brand - have each released tablet devices on Tuesday, just hours before Apple is expected to unveil updated versions of the iPad and iPad Mini.
Nokia, the Finnish company that last month merged its handset division with Microsoft in a 5.44 billion euro ($7.43 billion) deal showed off its first ever tablet, the Lumia 2520, in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday morning. With a 10.1 inch full-HD display and a 6.7 megapixel camera, the Lumia also runs on Windows 8.1 RT software - a version of the Windows 8 operating system designed for mobile devices.
At the launch, the company revealed the Lumia 2520 would come with both Wi-Fi and 4G LTE connectivity as standard -- so you can use it on the go. The tablet will be available in red, white, cyan and black and is expected to be in the shops at some point during the last three months of 2013. Initially it will launch in Finland, the U.K, and the U.S. and its estimated price is $499 before taxes or subsidies. Apple's current offering, with a higher-resolution retina display is available on its online store for the same price.
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"It stands out," Carolina Milanesi, research VP at Gartner Research told CNBC. "The design is different, the keyboard is different. Although it does not have a retina (display) the screen is good enough. There is a lot going for it except the price."
Milanesi added that the price could be reduced once Microsoft take over the reins, but an additional drawback would still be the Windows RT software which, she says, puts it in a "tough place" compared with Apple iPads. Analysts have criticized the software, with several profile glitches being reported, as well as a lack of third-party apps which many see as a reason why consumers favor Apple's iOS and Android.
As well as the 2520, five other devices were released in at the company's annual Nokia World event, held this year in Dubai, with "phablet" smartphones, the Lumia 1520 and Lumia 1320, being unveiled and three updates to its low-end Asha range.
Meanwhile, Microsoft themselves started selling its new Surface 2 tablet in the U.S. at midnight Monday. The device is sold as a faster, more powerful version of its previous model and continues to try to compete with Apple's iPads, however, according to technology websites like CNET, the launch was failing to attract buyers.
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But according to Milanesi this could soon change. Nokia would bring better design and a better understanding of the mobile ecosystem for Microsoft and give it more of a fighting chance in the consumer market, she said.
One-third of American adults now have tablets, "almost twice as many" as a year ago, a new study by the Pew Research said last week, and are now expected to overtake global shipments of PCs in the fourth quarter of this year, according to research firm IDC.
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Cupertino-based Apple were the first to move tablets into the consumer markets with the 2010 release of the first iPad model. While Microsoft and Nokia may have had their moment in the limelight Tuesday, attention is quickly expected to turn to Apple' event in San Francisco on Tuesday.
The iPad 5 is expected to be thinner and lighter than its predecessor, while the iPad mini 2 is likely to include a high-resolution "retina" display, analysts says, with some speculating the latter could also include a fingerprint sensor. The color scheme of both iPads is anticipated to match the iPhone 5S with space gray, champagne gold, and silver. At the same event, Apple may also reveal a new MacBook Pro.
— CNBC.com's Matt Clinch. Follow him on Twitter @mattclinch81