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Why does Nokia’s Lumia 2520 tablet run Windows RT?

Nokia announced the Lumia 2520 this week, a 10.1-inch tablet with the company’s signature design language. It’s a beautiful piece of hardware overall, but many were left frustrated that the slate was running the restrictive version of Windows. So why exactly did Nokia choose to go with Windows RT instead of full blown Windows 8.1?

Sticking one of Intel’s Core processors inside a 8.9mm chassis simply isn’t possible right now. Even Haswell has high power requirements that far exceed what ARM processors need, and there’s the problem of providing sufficient air flow too. There’s also the fact that the Core line is simply more expensive. Microsoft’s Surface Pro, for example, seems to be about as low as a company could go before significantly hurting profit margins.

Nokia made a wise decision to stick to an ARM processor in order to keep costs and power usage down, but there was another alternative. Intel offers low power x86 chips in the form of its Atom series, with the latest iteration – Bay Trail – proving to be more than capable for tablet usage. The chips themselves are much cheaper than the Core series too, and Atom-based tablets can run full Windows 8. Why, then, did Nokia opt for Qualcomm’s silicon?

For the LTE connectivity. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon line is extremely alluring for manufacturers because it packs everything they need into one SoC. There’s no need for a separate LTE modem, which helps cut down on costs and power requirements. Intel does have its own LTE solution, but it won’t be ready to go until early next year.

Nokia wants this tablet to be taken everywhere. That’s why LTE is onboard, and it’s also why particular emphasis was placed on that ridiculously bright display. LTE connectivity is a huge part of the allure, and at this moment in time, that’s only possible with Qualcomm’s chips – that means being saddled with Windows RT.

Will it hurt sales? Almost definitely. Consumers don’t want RT, and manufacturers certainly don’t want the hassle of dealing with it either. Still, Nokia has at least made things tempting. $499 will get you a tablet with 32GB of storage and built-in LTE – the equivalent iPad costs $729. That could woo small businesses and the enterprise market – especially given that Office is onboard – but normal human beings will still want apps to play with. It should go without saying that Windows RT is severely lacking in that department right now.

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