Microsoft pulls the plug on its last Windows RT tablet

However, the scaled-down operating system may rise again with the release of Windows 10.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Microsoft is putting the kibosh on the Lumia 2520, its last RT tablet. CNET

Microsoft has hammered a nail in the coffin of its Windows RT lineup.

The software giant has stopped making its last remaining RT device, namely the Nokia Lumia 2520 Windows RT tablet, a spokesman for the company told the Verge. This latest development follows news that Microsoft had halted production of its Surface 2 Windows RT tablet.

"We are no longer manufacturing Nokia Lumia 2520; however, those still eager to buy Nokia Lumia 2520 should visit Microsoft Retail Stores, MicrosoftStore.com, third-party retailers and resellers for the latest availability," the spokesman said. Microsoft got custody of the Nokia Lumia device after it purchased Nokia's mobile hardware business in 2014.

Windows RT was created as a scaled-down alternative to Windows 8 for devices using ARM processors instead of Intel x86-based processors. Running Windows RT on ARM-based devices was designed to extend battery life and lower device price tags. But the mobile OS never quite caught on, either with vendors or consumers. RT confused many potential buyers, who had difficulty grasping the differences between it and the full-blown Windows 8. Windows RT tablets also were incapable of running traditional desktop applications, another factor that damaged its adoption.

Microsoft shook up the industry when it released its own Surface version of an RT-based tablet in late 2012. Other makers of RT tablets considered the Surface direct competition and questioned Microsoft's decision to create rival hardware. As a result, such companies as Lenovo, Dell and Asus gave their RT devices the boot. Microsoft itself lost $900 million on its RT Surface tablet in 2013. The company launched the RT-based Surface 2 later that year and then finally gave up in order to focus on its Intel-powered Surface lineup.

Since Microsoft was the last holdout in making Windows RT tablets, does this mean RT is completely out of the picture? Not necessarily.

Last month, Microsoft hosted a press conference for Windows 10 in which it briefly touched on RT. In a Q&A with reporters, the company said that it is " working on an update for Windows RT as well." In a statement sent to CNET, Microsoft confirmed that it would update its entire Surface Pro series to Windows 10 but added that "we are working on an update for [the Windows RT version of] Surface, which will have some of the functionality of Windows 10" and promised "more information to come."

Still, Microsoft's commitment to Windows RT sounds a bit iffy. The company is launching Windows 10 in part to serve as a common and consistent platform across PCs, tablets and phones. Keeping Windows RT alive in one form or another would seem to go against the goal that Microsoft wants to achieve with its new OS.

Will Windows RT live on as a brand or name in some form? Or will Microsoft drop the RT name and label all new devices with Windows 10? The company did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.