Nokia Lumia 1520 Nokia Lumia 1520

Microsoft can always count on Nokia as the linchpin of devices and services strategy—good thing, too, since Microsoft is spending more than $7 billion to acquire its stalwart ally. The latest sign of the companies' emerging codependence: Nokia's belated entry into the market for tablets.

Tablets?

Today at a Nokia World event in Abu Dhabi, Nokia is unveiling six new devices, three of which are running Windows. The biggest, quite literally, of the bunch is Nokia's first tablet to use Windows. The Nokia Lumia 2520 is a 10.1-inch tablet running Microsoft’s Windows RT 8.1 operating system on a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 2.2 GHz processor with a 6.7 megapixel camera. The Lumia 2520 will retail at $499 and will ship this quarter.

Nokia also announced two large smartphones to go with the Lumia 2520 tablet: the Lumia 1520 is a 6-inch “phablet” smartphone as is the low-end Lumia 1320. The Lumias 1520 and 1320 are Nokia’s first entrance into smartphones with screens bigger than 5-inches and will sport a 20-megapixel camera, the same Snapdragon 800 processor and a robust 3,400 mAh battery. 

Nokia also announced three new Asha smartphones, its low-end feature phones with smart capabilities targeted at emerging markets. 

Microsoft’s Two ARMs

Windows RT, the version of Windows that runs on ARM-based processors, has been a disaster so far. The Surface RT tablets the company announced last year were a major consumer dud, leading to a $900 million write down on Microsoft’s balance sheet. Microsoft’s manufacturing partners—that would be Dell, Lenovo, Samsung and Asus—have also fled from making Windows RT tablets. Currently, the Microsoft RT and new Surface 2 are the only Windows RT devices available for consumers.

Unfazed, Microsoft is forging ahead with Windows RT more or less because it has no choice. Mobile app developers are not going to build apps for Microsoft tablets based on x86 chip architecture (such as the chips that Intel and AMD make and run most Windows laptops and PCs as well as the Surface Pro tablet series). Microsoft needs an ARM-based tablet so it can build affordable and trim competitors to joust with the likes of Apple’s iPad and tablets built on Google’s Android operating system.

So we have the first ARM-based Nokia Lumia tablet running Windows RT 8.1. The Lumia 2520 will come in red, cyan, white and black and have an optional Nokia Power Keyboard that wraps around the tablet, has a trackpad and provides five hours of extra battery life, according to Nokia. The Lumia 2520 will come with Microsoft Office built-in, Nokia Music and free use of its HERE Maps product.

With the Lumia 2520 and Surface 2, Microsoft now has two ARM-based Windows RT 8.1 tablets on the market—or three, if we count existing inventory of the Surface RT that's still for sale. Microsoft needed Nokia to build a tablet, and the power that Microsoft had over Nokia through its exclusive partnership—even before the acquisition—meant that Nokia didn't really have a choice.

A Wide Range Of Lumia Smartphones

With the Lumia 1520 and the Lumia 1320, Nokia now has a variety of smartphones to fit just about every screen size. The 6-inch 1520 as big or bigger than other phablet/smartphones such as Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3, the HTC One Max and the LG Optimus G Pro. In the mid-screen tier Nokia has the 4.5-inch Lumia, 920, Lumia 925 and Lumia 928 as well as the Lumia 1020 with a 41-megapixel camera. The Lumia 520 is Nokia’s budget smartphone selling at $99 with a 4-inch screen.

The Lumia 1520 and Lumia 1320 come as Microsoft just released Windows Phone 8 Update 3 that allows for manufacturers to build smartphones with screens larger than 5 inches along with a variety of new features.

Between all the screen sizes and prices, Nokia has its bases covered while hitting just about every major cellular carrier in the United States and Western Europe.

It’s taken Nokia a couple of years to build out its full portfolio of Lumia smartphones, but when you take a step back and look at the full spectrum of devices, it is impressive what the company has been able to produce since the first Lumia was announced in October 2011. Of course, that's still no guarantee that the company can make headway against the iPhone and Android juggernauts.