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Is Nokia's App-Enabled Booklet Netbook Trying to Beat Apple's Tablet?

This is hot news on the InterWebs this morning—Nokia's apparently going to move into a totally new market: It's making a PC, a netbook number that's also integrated with the Ovi App Store. Is Nokia taking on Apple's iTablet?

Nokia is, of course, the global king of the cell-phone game, making and selling more than any one else on the planet. Except in recent financial quarters when its profits have taken a tumble, partly thanks to the economy and partly due to a lack of innovation—Nokia was incredibly slow to take on the touchscreen smartphone revolution. Which makes its choice to diversify into PC sales very interesting.

The specs of it's Booklet machine aren't particularly unexpected: Windows and Atom-powered, 3G broadband integrated, Wifi b/g/n, Bluetooth and a 10.1-inch LCD, all in a relatively small but bland-looking 1.25-kilo, 20mm-deep package. The claimed 12-hour battery life is interesting, as that would put the Booklet among the top end of the netbook battery life range. But it's the other details that make the netbook slightly interesting.

Nokia's given the machine A-GPS capabilities, meaning it's useful for geotagging one's photos as well as for navigating. The first ad also highlights "millions of songs from Nokia music store," "sync effortlessly with your mobile" and "Ovi services"—this last is Nokia's app store for both its dumb- and smart-phones, and represents an expansion of Apps that we've all been waiting for. Nokia's EVP of devices even says in Nokia's press release: "We will create something quite compelling." A-GPS and an App Store does indeed sound compelling, and its 3G capabilities mean it may well be sold via cell-phone providers as a subsidized product in the same way many smartphones are sold.

But it also reveals exactly what Nokia's up to with the Booklet. The Finnish company was caught snoozing by the iPhone, a revolutionary device that's basically sweeping up the smartphone market Nokia missed out on making its own. With rumors of Apple's iTablet and even Android-powered netbooks and tablets on the way, Nokia's trying to establish an early foothold in the smartbook/tablet market—the more powerful machines, possibly with hefty App Store integration, that will soon supersede the netbook. The timing, with strong rumors swirling about Apple all the time, pretty much confirms this.

It does beg one question though: Why is Nokia releasing such a vanilla-looking product? It's not exactly innovative, and the only thing that makes it stand out from the rest of the netbook crowd is the GPS and Ovi features—things that other OEMs will catch up with really, really soon. We probably won't have long to find out: Nokia's likely to reveal much more at Nokia World on September 2.