Microsoft has no plans to bring its Windows 10 software to tablets running Windows RT. That means the Surface 2, Surface RT, Nokia Lumia 2520, and a handful of other tablets with ARM-based chips and Windows software won’t get all the fancy new Windows 10 features coming to Windows phones and x86-based PCs.

But Microsoft isn’t quite pulling the plug on Windows RT. The company tells CNET and The Verge that it does plan to release software updates that will bring some Windows 10 features to its Surface tablets.

surface 2

Windows RT was Microsoft’s first attempt to bring Windows to tablets with ARM-based processors. It looks just like Windows for devices with Intel or AMD processors, but it lacks the ability to run classic desktop apps written for x86 processors, sometimes referred to as Win32 apps.

So while there’s a desktop mode on Windows RT devices like the Surface 2 and Surface RT, you can only really use it for the file explorer and Microsoft Office apps. If you want to install third-party apps you’re pretty much limited to the full-screen, “modern” style apps available from the Windows Store.

During this week’s Windows 10 launch event, Microsoft said that the upcoming Windows operating system is designed to run on a range of devices including phones, tablets, notebooks, desktops and entirely new devices like the 84 inch Surface Hub digital whiteboard and conferencing system.

The software that runs on phones with ARM-based chips will probably be a bit different from the PC version of Windows 10, but they’ll both be able to support a new type of app Microsoft calls Universal Windows Apps which are designed to run on different chip architectures, different screen sizes, and on devices with touchscreens or a keyboard and mouse.

It’s not yet clear which Windows 10 features Microsoft plans to bring to existing Surface tablet users. But it sounds like if you want to buy a Surface tablet today and know that it’ll be able to run Windows 10 when it’s released later this year, you’ll probably want to opt for a Surface Pro tablet. The Microsoft Surface Pro, Pro 2, and Pro 3 are all powered by Intel processors and each should be able to run Windows 10.

As for non-Surface devices, Microsoft suggested that the PC version of Windows 10 will be available for devices with 8 inch and larger screens (and probably devices with x86 chips), while the mobile version of Windows 10 is designed for smartphones and tablets with screens smaller than 8 inches.

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33 replies on “Windows RT tablets won’t run Windows 10”

  1. “We are working on an update for Surface, which will have some of the
    functionality of Windows 10. More information to come” (citation)

    Maybe the update will be called 8.2, maybe 10, unknown yet. Most WIn10 features are desktop focussed, which does not make a lot of sense on Surface RT/2 anyway.

    I guess that

    – Office Touch (so not need for the desktop version on RT then either)
    – new full Metro settings (so again no need for desktop settings)
    – Universal Apps (they work on ARM as needed for WP)

    will at least be the features that come. Maybe even Cortana?
    Anything else (Multidesktop, better console, new windows management, startmenu, …) is interesting on desktop only anyway, so maybe no problem to not have on RT


    What I hate about the current “news”: All sites copy each other. Only because The Verge says “RT is dead” anybody (here, mobilegeeks, …) repeats it?!

    “More information to come”

    Why not simply wait for more and actual information before burying RT (again).

    Maybe I am wrong and there won’t even be the above mentioned features on RT but maybe I am right. Point is it is unknown at this point of time. Do not make it sound final

  2. A little over 2 years ago I bought into the whole MS Windows 8 concept, bought 8.0 for the desktop, a Surface RT and Windows Phone (HTC8x).

    MS never released an ATV challenger so I still have one Apple device.

    Seems to me MS started off behind Apple and have only gone backwards since. Whilst Apple have been able to release a new major version of iOS each year my Windows phone still runs the same software it came with, no upgrade in sight and I assume there now never will be, same goes for the Surface RT.

    My phone contract expired on 31/12 …

    I have decided to call time on MS devices my next purchase will be anything that’s not an MS one

  3. Why? Couldn’t they use the phone version of Windows 10, just scaled up?
    Guess not.

  4. Lumia 2520 will upgrade to windows 10???

  5. Left hand and right hand aren’t talking apparently. During the Q&A event, the Microsoft VP said RT users would be getting an upgrade (per report on Engadget).

    Still, RT devices will continue working and still be the nice machines they were when people bought them (people bought them, right?). Unless clearly stated/guaranteed, I never assume an embedded/closed system will have an upgrade path. I’ve been burned too many times before. Buy products for what they are the day you buy them; and if they can be upgraded in future, it’s a bonus. That said, I didn’t really see the appeal of RT devices; nice hardware and a bad ecosystem. For the same or less money, I bought an 8″ Bay Trail Windows 8 tablet. Hardware isn’t as nice, but I know it runs every program that any other Windows computer can run (just not very fast).

  6. Where are the asswipes that were once slamming me saying “ALL windows 8 devices will get Windows 10” now? All I have to say is, I told you so! Love it…

      1. Were you the asswipe mark? Just curious…I have to keep track of these things.

  7. So…. Windows Phone 7 – 2.0, got it, nothing to see here, moving on.

    Once i was excited about Mobile Versions of Windows, back when they were leaps and bounds above the competition a decade ago. I cherish the memories of my “PocketPC 2002 / Windows Mobile 2003” Devices. But then came iOS and Android one after the other and MS fumbled the ball.

    At this point i don’t even pity people who buy MS Software on non x86 Hardware anymore, i just shake my head.
    If it ain’t running the true “Desktop Windows”, it’s not worth getting. The faster people learn to understand this, the fewer opportunities they give MS to let them down.

    For any “below 8 Inch Needs”, don’t even bother to call me unless they come out with an x86 Lumia that turns into a full blown Desktop with legacy win32 support when you put it into a dockin cradle at home.

    1. Except it’s no different on IOS or Android or other mobile platforms; you don’t get the flexibility of x86 Windows nor a guarantee of years of upgradability like you do on x86 PCs. And MS had long to Symbian long before lesser-selling Apple turned up late to the party.

      1. My point was that iOS and Android came out and MS did nothing but coast on prior successes without innovating and got passed by, and in todays market there is simply no reason to buy MS Mobile offerings over the competition because we see time and time again that the main strenght you yourself pointed out MS has on x86 simply doesn’t hold true for their ARM Software.

    1. Maybe… they’re probably doing this just because the mobile version of Windows 10 drops the limited desktop that RT supported but with a Metro/Modern version of Office coming out there really isn’t a need for the limited desktop anymore and RT doesn’t allow 3rd party apps for the desktop anyway…

      So, I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually there’s a option to just replace RT with the mobile Windows 10… Though, we may have to wait and see whether this comes through official channels or via 3rd party developers (like how Custom ROMS are available for Android devices)…

      But up to you, upcoming devices are going to be a lot more powerful and worth the upgrade IMO… especially compared to the aging Tegra 2/3 in the RT/S2 tablets… While performance/cost of x86 tablets are getting good enough for them to be viable alternatives that can run full Windows 10…

      Thus MS focus on phones/phablets and smaller than 8″ tablets for mobile version of Windows 10…

      1. Well thanks again, much to think about then! My SurfaceRT does great at what i need it to do, but an upgrade would be nice as your oppinion suggest!

  8. It’s so repetitive with Microsoft mobile devices and broken compatibility. I don’t know how anyone can trust them anymore.
    They should give everyone with RT free versions of the windows phone app they bought.

    ARM compatibility isn’t a bad idea though. It would be nice for all windows compiled apps to be able to run on a generic windows build for ARM/x86/MIPS.

    1. Why? Did the devices come with a upgrade guarantee? Did Microsoft set an expectation that the devices would be upgradable to the next version of Windows? Yeah, it’s not ideal, but it’s not as though their RT devices are going to be bricked. They will have fully functional systems.

      1. It’s not simply the device, but the bleak future of RT as a whole.
        So that’s support, service, updates, apps. I know metro apps work on RT but the store is quite weak in quality apps. I also don’t get why ARM-based phone market wasn’t made compatible with ARM-based tablets. That’s going to be rectified in the future but at the cost of one of them.

        1. For why WP and RT weren’t compatible to begin with…

          1) WP is a lot more streamlined and light a OS version, which is why it can run well with even 512MB of RAM but you need 2GB to run RT well…

          So, aside from looking similar on the Metro side, they were pretty different OS versions to begin with… Mainly just sharing the same NT Kernel…

          2) WP8 needed to maintain support for the previous WP7x apps as otherwise they would have to start from scratch but that left them incompatibility with the Metro apps that would work for both x86 and RT version of W8… as neither of those could support the WP7x apps and WP8, when first released, didn’t support the minimum spec requirements for running the W8/RT Metro apps… Like the minimum resolution requirement…

          It wasn’t until WP8.1 that it gained things like higher resolution support that finally let it support the minimum spec requirements of W8/RT… While similar updates for W8/RT to 8.1 update 1 provided similar changes that lowered the minimum spec requirements and thus finally started to provide overlap they could work with…

          So Windows 10 basically takes advantage of changes over the past two years and will provide a single mobile version that will run on both phones and a tablets…

          Along with this will be a merger of both the WP App Store and the W8/RT app store… So most apps will be able to run on both platforms going forward…

          Though, it remains to be seen if the older WP apps will remain compatible but the WP8x apps should be okay, especially the ones made for WP8.1…

          The only problem for RT is the limited desktop it has isn’t part of the mobile version of Windows 10… So option is either update RT devices to the mobile Windows 10 and lose the limited desktop or keep RT and just slap some upgrades to it to make it similar enough to Windows 10 and let users keep the limited desktop…

          Since Office 2016 will provide Metro/Modern version of Office, I don’t think they need to keep the limited desktop anymore but MS may be afraid existing users may cry foul if they suddenly find it gone after upgrading to Windows 10… and MS would rather new users use Office 365 anyway…

          Btw, it probably doesn’t help that the tablet market seems to be in a decline right now and the main devices still with market growth are phablets… further suggesting the reason MS specifically are targeting phone, phablets and smaller than 8″ tablets with the mobile Windows 10…

          1. “Windows 10 basically takes advantage of changes over the past two years and will provide a single mobile version that will run on both phones and a tablets…”

            Do you know if they figured out the Market then? Windows 10 would extend the existing windows 8.1 metro/universal market.

            If there is one market for all now does that mean windows phone 8.1 users that aren’t upgrading their device have an old market that will be neglected?

            I think they could have done it for windows 8.1 instead of waiting another generation. You have a major change in architecture/OS coming, So you’ll affect users at some point, that’s a given.

          2. It’s easier to make sweeping changes with a new OS… especially, if there are underlining changes that would require the older OS to be significantly altered anyway…

            Windows 8 was more a hybrid OS than anything else… combining the traditional desktop OS with the Modern/Metro in two environments you could quickly switch between, with some overlap here and there…

            But with Windows 10 MS is achieving more a merged/unified OS with features and capabilities overlapping all environments…

            Desktop users can use Metro/Modern apps just like traditional desktop apps, from a Window view instead of full screen… Live tiles can be used in both environments… Gesture and touch controls now extends to the desktop as well as the Metro/Modern environment… etc… for example…

            So they’re doing a lot more than just tweaking the OS…

            As for WP8.1 users… they don’t need to upgrade their device… The free upgrade includes WP8.1 devices!

            So far, it only appears MS changed their minds about RT… probably because, as I pointed out before, there is the issue about support for the desktop… even if it was limited to begin with… but is one of the reasons some people did get a RT device… and Windows 10 Mobile version won’t have a desktop mode at all…

            But Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 are all under the free upgrade promotion for first year of Windows 10 release…

          3. Windows Phone is included in that promotion?

            How easy is it to upgrade windows phone OS? Is windows upgrades for phone easier than Android where I have to wait for a manufacturer to push it out?

          4. Yes, Windows Phone 8.1 is included in the promotion… So, as long as your phone is already up to date then it should qualify…

            Though, MS also stated that “not every phone will upgrade or support all possible Windows 10 features”… So probably not the really budget and older gen phones that have low specs like low resolution screens, really low memory, etc…

            As for implementing the upgrade, it’s a phone so it’s pretty much the same as any other phone… You have to either wait for your carrier to push it out for an automatic update or manually download it and install it yourself…

            I’d wait for the auto push update as first release can be buggy and thus waiting for the auto push gives time to see reviews and see if fixes are coming out quickly or not…

      2. I think it was implied at the very least that RT devices would be along for the ride.
        If we got fooled, well fool me once…

    2. the apps that they bought will work with any other Windows 10 machine (they just log in to the new machine and all there apps are there )

  9. The icing on the cake is that a lot of the RT devices have very locked down EFI/BIOS. I would love to run android on my Lenovo Yoga RT – but its not in the cards!

    1. I get the feeling the locks were an admission that the hardware would be far more interesting than the software… especially since they were selling it as a loss leader. They didn’t want to see most re purposed. That and it was used as a trial balloon for the XBoxing of the PC platform, and since they did NOT move the practice to the Intel platform, even on the freebie loads, it looks like the market spoke loudly enough for them to hear.

      1. Practically all ARM devices are locked down though. Can’t run Android on an Apple phone, or IOS on a Symbian phone.

        1. Actually, you can replace the OS on many Android devices, although some effort is usually required. Some are totally locked with signed bootloaders that only boot signed kernels. Haven’t heard of ANY breaks against Windows RT devices, they are all as locked as an XBox or iPhone. (You can ‘jailbreak’ an iPhone but not replace the whole OS.)

          1. Linux on ARM has also been around for quite a while- predating android by many years. There are quite a few linux distros that run well on ARM – and you can even use a cross compiler on x86 to build ARM binaries.

            In this case the manufacturer – Lenovo will blame MS because they will claim that to run RT the BIOS must be trusted for the RT license. MS will point at Lenovo saying they could do whatever they want with their hardware but to run RT it must secure boot.

            On a small volume devices like these ARM hardware devices it will be difficult to get around this,

  10. What an exciting new opportunity to take a look at some other operating systems as you ride out the days of waning support and wait for the inevitable obsoleting of your device to occur.
    It reminds me of what happens with my Windows phone a year before my contact was up.
    -or maybe hackers will figure out how to put a successful OS on them.
    Good luck folks.
    My condolences

    1. Exciting new opportunity for the tiny minority of users who both care enough and have enough tech knowhow to do it, that is.

    2. the devices will still get updates and be supported for at least one more year (that make the total support time more than most Android tablet and similar to ipad support life-cycle )

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