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RIP Windows RT: Microsoft murders ARM Surface, Nokia tablets

End of the road for Lumia 2520 slab

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Microsoft has quietly pulled the plug on the last device to ship running Windows RT, casting doubt on the future of Redmond's ARM fondleslab OS.

The software giant confirmed on Wednesday to The Register that it has stopped manufacturing the Nokia Lumia 2520, a 10.1-inch Windows RT tablet with a quad-core ARM processor, an HD display, and 4G LTE wireless connectivity.

The Surface 2 – not to be confused with its beefier cousin, the Intel-powered Surface Pro 2 – ceased production in January, meaning Microsoft is no longer making any devices that run Windows RT.

And because all of Microsoft's other hardware partners walked away from the underpowered OS long ago, citing poor customer reception – after all, even Redmond took a bath on the original Surface RT – that means nobody is producing any Windows RT kit anymore.

Instead, makers of Windows tablets have lately been opting for full-fat Windows 8.1 – particularly given that Microsoft is essentially letting them license the OS for free if they choose the Bing-subsidized version.

How (and indeed if) Microsoft plans to fill the strategic void left by its Windows RT devices, however, is a little murky.

Although Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8 will both be upgraded to Windows 10, with versions of the new OS running on handsets and PCs alike, Microsoft has made no similar commitment for the unloved RT.

In January, Redmond's OS bosses told El Reg that Microsoft is "working on an update for Windows RT" that "will have some of the functionality of Windows 10" – which hardly sounds the same as a full upgrade.

Then again, the recent announcement that Windows 10 will run on the Raspberry Pi 2 hobbyist board indicates that Microsoft plans to keep maintaining a version of its OS kernel that runs on ARM chips.

When The Reg asked Microsoft for clarification on Wednesday, we were told, "ARM devices will continue to be a crucial part of the range of devices Windows 10 supports, with an optimized experience for ARM-based phones, phablets and small tablets up to 8 inches."

From what we gather, that "optimized experience" means something closer in look and feel to today's Windows Phone, where the traditional Windows desktop will be inaccessible on handsets and small tablets.

Whether Microsoft plans to produce any large tablets based on ARM chips in the near future, however, is unclear. At the moment, the only device in the firm's fondleslab family that's known to still be rolling off assembly lines is the Surface Pro 3, the well-received third iteration of Microsoft's Intel-based professional tablet.

If you're still in the market for a Windows RT device, though, you may be in luck. Units of both the Surface 2 and the Nokia Lumia 2520 are believed to still be in the retail channel – and you may soon be able to get them at bargain rates. ®

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