Nokia's Booklet: How the Story Could Unfold

ESPOO, Finland ( TheStreet.com) -- Nokia's ( NOK) me-too netbook move is late, wrong and yet somehow a sign of revitalization.

After months of speculation, the Finnish phone shop said Monday that it will sell a 10-inch mini-laptop with built-in 3G wireless access and 12 hours of battery life.

The company will be calling on its connections with phone companies that help pay hefty subsidies on the so called "Nokia Booklet 3G" device. The bigger the telco contribution, the more consumers will presumably opt for cheap PCs with two-year data service plans.

Using its manufacturing partner Foxconn, Nokia is likely to get its name on devices in time for the holiday rush. But the puzzling lack of any special qualities seems to be a weak first step in Nokia's plan to catch up in mobile computing.

Late?

Netbooks sprang to popularity two years ago as outfits like Acer and Asus built stripped-down laptops with $300 price tags that fit tighter budgets.

Nokia is plunging into a sea of netbooks. Today, eight of the top 10 best-selling computers on Amazon ( AMZN) are 10-inch netbooks, a list dominated by Asus and Acer.

Wrong?

Computer makers like Apple ( AAPL) and Dell ( DELL) have gone the other direction, by seizing the smartphone opportunity. Meanwhile, Nokia has enlisted Intel ( INTC) to supply its Atom chip for the device, which will run on Microsoft's ( MSFT) Windows operating system.

Nokia - Love It or Leave It

It certainly makes Nokia watchers wonder what happened to the pioneering mobile computing effort it had with its tablet, a touchscreen device that preceded the Apple iPod Touch by years.

Revitalization?

As lame as the Booklet move may be, it marks the beginning of a much broader tablet and touchscreen device strategy for Nokia, says MKM Partners analyst Tero Kuittinen.

"Nokia is likely going to utilize Windows in the 10-inch screen Booklets and Maemo in the smaller devices with 4-6 inch screens," Kuittinen says.

Maemo is Nokia's Linux-based operating software aimed at low-power, always-on devices like tablets and smartphones.

Late this year, Nokia is expected to introduce the first of its new touchscreen smartphones. The 4.2-inch device is expected to have a skinny, "hidden slide-out keyboard" aimed at the popular Apple iPhone and Research In Motion ( RIMM) BlackBerry.

Nokia hopes the booklet opens a new chapter in its fight to stay at the top of the mobile phone bestseller list.

-- Written by Scott Moritz in New York.

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