The fact that Nokia stands alone among the main "old school" mobile phone makers as having never released a tablet (quieten down at the back, N810 owners) means rumours of an impending Nokia slate are never too far from the Surface – pun vaguely intended.
And if you want rumours, who better than DigiTimes to baste your festive turkey? That's right, Taiwan's self-styled mobile oracle is today indulging us with the claim that Nokia will arrive at Mobile World Congress 2013 with a Windows RT-based 10-incher in its bag of tricks.
The story goes like this: Nokia originally planned to test the tablet waters with a 10in Qualcomm S4-powered tablet early last year, but held back partly because of the impending arrival of Microsoft's own Surface, and partly because Windows RT was an entirely unproven entity.
So it decided to hold off, and has resumed development of the idea (still with Qualcomm and with Compal doing the manufacturing) with the aim of launching the device at MWC 2013 in Barcelona in February.
To be fair to DigiTimes, the main reason we all keep reporting its allegations is that many of them turn out – either wholly or in part – to be true. That may be the case here too, but the suggestion that Nokia was originally looking at a Q1 2012 timeframe for its debut tablet (even with a modest initial run of 200,000 units, as is claimed) seems bizarre to say the least.
Unless I'm getting it wrong, listing the fact that “the market for Windows 8/RT tablets needed to be proven” as a reason for Nokia holding back at the time can only be taken to mean that the Nokia tablet would have Windows 8/RT on board. In which case a better reason for Nokia missing the Q1 2012 window would go something like “Windows 8/RT was nowhere near finished yet”.
Ignoring the timing issue, though, it's hard to see the picture being any better for Nokia going into 2013 than it was nearly a year ago. First off, the Surface now does exist, and would be a direct competitor to whatever Nokia has in mind. And probably the most widespread sentiment in summing up the Windows RT Surface would be “hardware good, software bad” – a situation Nokia would at best only be able to match, not improve on. And that's ignoring the other 10in Windows 8/RT tablets and hybrids it'll be competing against.
Surely the smarter move would be to try and be first in line to release a 7in Windows RT tablet offering? Opening up RT to support the increasingly popular smaller tablet form factor has got to be high on Microsoft's to-do list (or it should be), as it would go a long way to help Windows RT's struggle to establish its own identity.
That would be the kind of MWC 2013 announcement worth hearing, as opposed to what seems to be, the way DigiTimes is describing it, a rehash of something Nokia already seemed far from convinced about a year ago. I'll admit it's also nothing but pure speculation, but hell, DigiTimes started it.