Armed with Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system, Finnish handset giant Nokia hopes to go to battle next year in the growing tablet market.
The move would deepen cooperation between the American software giant and the world's biggest cell phone maker that began with an estimated $1 billion deal to install Windows Phone 7 on Nokia's newest smartphones.
Nokia's CEO is former Microsoft executive Stephen Elop.
Word of a Nokia tablet emerged from an unlikely source Wednesday, when the head of Nokia's French division, Paul Amsellem, told Les Echos, a business magazine, that the Windows 8-based tablet will hit the market in June.
Whether a slip or a leak, the comments also shed light on when the next version of Windows will hit the market; Microsoft has not announced a date.
A device that recreates the feel of a PC on a tablet and allows access to PC data and applications could be a missing link in the market, said ABI Research tablet expert Jeff Orr.
"Today, Microsoft offers Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7 software platforms for different device form-factors, but the synergies between the two are few," he said.
"Compounding the issue is the dominance of ARM-based processor designs in media tablets; a segment that Intel x86 architecture has admittedly been absent [from] for the first product wave."
While Windows 7 won't work on ARM processors, Microsoft intends to make it happen for Windows 8, Orr said.
"At the Microsoft BUILD conference in September, Samsung tablet PCs were given to attendees with an early developer preview of Windows 8. This first glimpse into Windows 8 on a tablet was powered by an Intel Core i5 dual-core processor similar to those found in mid-range laptop and desktop PCs," Orr said.
"How well Windows 8 performs on an ARM-based device remains a well-guarded secret."
Most tablets are powered by mobile operating systems, but Orr noted that Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 is licensed for handsets only.
Looking Beyond 'Tweeners'
"For Microsoft, media tablets are currently a 'tweener' device between OS initiatives of Windows 7 and Windows Phone," Orr said.
Nokia likely won't be alone in selling a Windows 8 tablet next year: Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Samsung -- who currently sell Windows 7 tablets for business users -- will be looking to target general consumers with a new tablet, he said.
"What exactly does Nokia bring to the party that today's Windows tablets are lacking? Only Nokia can answer that question."
In response to Amsellem's comments, Nokia downplayed the news.
"The remarks were taken out of context," a spokeswoman told The Guardian. "A simple example was taken to mean more than intended. Nokia does not comment on speculation or rumors, and at the moment we are all concentrating on the Lumia 800 which went on sale this week."
The Lumia is the latest Windows 7 smartphone.