By Matt Smith
ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Nokia has unveiled its first tablet and large-screen smartphones, which will form part of Microsoft's global push to become a leading player in consumer devices when it takes over the Finnish company's handset business.
The Lumia 2520 tablet, along with the Lumia 1320 and 1520 phones are among the last products Nokia developed before deciding to sell the devices unit to Microsoft in a deal that is due to close in the first quarter of next year.
Nokia, once the global leader in mobile phones, arrived late to the smartphone race and has struggled to catch up with Apple and Samsung, who dominate the increasingly crowded market for large-screen smartphones, known as phablets.
The Lumia tablet, which has a 10-inch screen, will also face tough competition from the likes of Apple, which is expected to unveil slimmer, faster iPads on Tuesday. The phablets, which both have 6-inch screens, will take on a multitude of similar devices from Samsung.
Analysts said the new products, which will retain the Nokia brand after the Microsoft handover, are priced low enough to attract interest.
The Lumia 2520, which comes in glossy red and white as well as matt cyan and black versions, is expected to start shipping in the fourth quarter for about $499.
"The tablet is a nice design, it's a good-value proposition," Gartner analyst Annette Zimmermann said, though she doubts that Nokia's first foray into the tablet market will bring billions in sales.
Others also questioned whether the new launch is enough to lure consumers back to Nokia and Microsoft, while Forrester analyst Thomas Husson said the Lumia 2520's position for Microsoft is unclear, particularly after the software giant launched its own tablets.
At midnight on Monday, Microsoft started selling its Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets. Still feeling its way in the computer hardware business, the company is banking on the lighter and faster models boosting the lackluster sales of its touch-screen devices.
"Despite a more affordable price, the respective positioning of Nokia's tablet versus the Surface 2 is not obvious and will have to be dealt with after the Nokia acquisition," Husson said.
The new devices will help Microsoft to increase the number of Windows users, but Husson said he expects it to remain a long way from "a significant installed base of consumers".
Nokia's former chief executive Stephen Elop, hired in 2010 to turn round the company, decided in early 2011 to drop Nokia's own operating system in favor of the Microsoft's untested Windows Phone software.
The Lumia devices have been well received by technology blogs and critics, but sales have been slow to pick up, partly because of a lack of Windows Phone apps and a limited marketing budget.
(Writing by Ritsuko Ando; Editing by David Goodman)