Tablet computers: Overdose

NOKIA is going out with a flourish. In Abu Dhabi on October 22nd, at its last launch party before the sale of its mobile-phone division to Microsoft, the Finnish company showed off its first tablet. Like Nokia’s smartphones, the Lumia 2520 uses a version of the American firm’s Windows operating system. New models of Microsoft’s own Surface tablets, announced last month, went on sale the same day.Microsoft and Nokia are aiming at the dearer end of the tablet market, which is dominated by Apple’s iPad. Microsoft has already had a false start. In July it wrote off $900m to reflect poor sales of the Surface RT. As if to remind Microsoft of what it is up against, a few hours after Nokia’s launch Apple unveiled the iPad Air, which is thinner and lighter than its predecessors, and an upgraded iPad mini.Just as remarkable as the iPad’s success, however, is the proliferation of cheaper imitators. A mere three-and-a-half years after the first iPad was sold, the market for tablets already has a premium and a budget end, like that for cars. The cheap models, most of which have seven- or eight-inch screens against the standard iPad’s ten, use Google’s Android operating system (which is free) and are sold for as little as $100 or less. The least expensive iPad Air and the Lumia 2520 will be sold for $499 and Microsoft’s Surface 2 for $449.In the second quarter of this year, according to…

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