The Nokia Lumia 2520 runs Windows RT and uses a Qualcomm processor.
Nokia's new Windows RT tablet turns the Finnish handset maker into Microsoft's rival, but at least one Nokia partner says there's really no competition.
Nokia earlier this week unveiled the Lumia 2520, the company's first tablet and the second current device in the market to run Windows RT. The other is Microsoft's Surface 2. Microsoft is in the process of buying Nokia, and the product release puts the two in an awkward position.
But executives at chipmaker Qualcomm say Nokia's tablet has a clear advantage over the Surface 2 in everything from processor speed to graphics, video playback, and wireless connectivity.
"The performance on [the 2520] is brilliant," Raj Talluri, senior vice president of product management for Qualcomm's application processors, told CNET. "It's really at the next level. It's not even really a contest [compared to Surface 2] ... In every area, it's much bigger, faster, and lower power."
Of course Talluri is biased -- Qualcomm provided the processor for Nokia's device while Nvidia made the Surface 2 chip. But in terms of sheer speeds and feeds, the Lumia 2520 does have some things to offer beyond the Surface 2. For processors, Microsoft's tablet houses a 1.7GHz Nvidia Tegra 4, whereas Nokia went with a 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 for the Lumia 2520. As CNET noted Thursday, the 2520 seems poised to be a more capable gaming machine than the Surface 2.
Talluri and Stephen Horton, a Qualcomm executive who works on product management for tablets and other computing devices, said Microsoft largely went with an Nvidia chip for Surface 2 because of timing.
"Let's put it this way," Horton said. "They're buying the company that did [the Lumia 2520] device. They clearly are very excited about it."
Microsoft and Nvidia declined to comment.
There will be no clear winner, however, until consumers vote with their wallets. Up to this point, few have chosen Windows RT products.
Windows RT is the first version of the operating system that runs on low-power chips normally used for cell phones. Those include processors from Qualcomm and Nvidia based on ARM Holdings technology. Making Windows compatible with such processors was Microsoft's attempt to better address the mobile market, an area where it has traditionally struggled. The lower-power chips allow thinner and lighter designs.
The Microsoft Surface 2 uses an Nvidia chip, much like the first version of the tablet.
However, Windows RT has some big drawbacks compared with Windows 8. For one, it's not compatible with many older applications, including iTunes. Few companies have introduced products running the operating system. Dell, Samsung, Toshiba, and Hewlett-Packard are several who dropped their Windows RT plans.
"We have a longer term view on these things," Talluri said. "The RT of today may not be the RT of tomorrow. But the vision of a device that's both your entertainment and productivity device that you want to carry with you is going to be there. We invest for the longer term."
In smartphones, meanwhile, Qualcomm is the undisputed king. It either provides the wireless chips, such as 4G LTE, or the application processor in most major devices on the market, including the iPhone 5S and Galaxy S4. It also is the chip provider for Windows Phones, partnering closely with Nokia over the years. However, Qualcomm has lagged rivals when it comes to tablets. That recently has started to change, with Qualcomm providing chips for recent hot tablets such as the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7 and the Google Nexus 7.
Qualcomm said partners are working on more than 40 tablets using its processor that should hit the market within the next year. A big reason companies are choosing Qualcomm chips is the ability to support high screen resolutions, Talluri said, and many who work with Qualcomm on smartphones find it easy to shift to tablets with the chipmaker.
"Once you make the phone, it's an easy step to make a great tablet because you've already done the hard work and the same processor can support both," Talluri said.
And Horton pointed out that the first Android devices, such as the T-Mobile G1, also were panned.
"Google and Microsoft are very capable organizations, [with] lots of technologies," Horton said. Microsoft "didn't hit a home run out of the gate on the very first product, but they're working on it."
A look at Nokia's first tablet, the Lumia 2520 (pictures)
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Zack Whittaker contributed to this report.