ChevronWP7 - breaking out is hard to do

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 ChevronWP7 - breaking out is hard to do
Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Even if you don't have the slightest interest in Windows Phone 7, you probably should be following the antics at ChevronWP7 if only to see if you can follow the distorted logic behind it all.

Put simply, the history is that a bunch of talented guys engineer a jailbreak for WP7 and put it online for all to download and play with. Microsoft notices and doesn't like it, but instead of sending the guys to jail, along with the phone, it makes a polite call, convinces them to go legit and gives them some nice T-shirts. In return for withdrawing their evil software, Microsoft suggests that they do the job properly and create an approved jailbreak site.

By now you are probably noticing that this is either the work of a genius or the silliest thing to happen for a long time.

Recall that to actually put any application on a Windows Phone you have to hand over $99 to Microsoft who makes you jump through various hoops, only allow you to unlock a small number of phones, and restricts the number of apps you can load onto them to 10 and no interop. What this means is that a jailbreak is well over due. However, the ChevronWP7 jailbreak is more like a parole. You can unlock a phone, but you have to pay$9 and you are still subject to the same restrictions on the number of apps. However, this is still an improvement over being banged up behind bars and \$9 isn't so much to ask for all the hard work put into creating a legal way to freedom. So parole it is.

ChevronWP7 was finally launched on November 4th, which means it took a long time for the team to move from its illegal unlocker to the legal variety. Clearly doing things the proper way is much more difficult than just doing it.

As if to prove the point a few days after the launch things started going wrong. Users found that the unlock tokens that they were downloading sometimes didn't work. More fixes, more problems and then it got so bad that they had to disable the purchase of tokens so that they had time to fix it.

This is not to suggest that the programmers behind ChevronWP7 are incompetent, but that there is something very hard and very tricky about phone locking and unlocking.

As of November15th you can buy tokens again, but there are still some problems. In particular some phones just don't want to talk to a PC and this seems to be a problem in common with the official Microsoft unlocker.

In fact there seem to be a lot of people with problems with both the official and the ChevronWP7 unlocker. Presumably this is because, while WP7 is created by Microsoft, the hardware and the vendor customizations mean that phones vary in how they implement the security - hence phone unlocking is hard to do.

One day soon ChevronWP7 might have it all under control but it still doesn't alter the crazy situation of having two ways to unlock a WP7 device. By bringing ChevronWP7 under its wing Microsoft can keep some control - tokens are locked to registered users and phones have unique names in Zune. Even so, users of the service reveal via comments and requests on blog posts that a number of them are simply interested in sideloading "free" apps.

So at the moment Microsoft has a situation where developers have the best and the worst of it. If you want to develop something experimental to be distributed to a small select group of users then the official unlocking route is restrictive and the unofficial route seems to be temperamental. If, on the other hand you want to release a blockbuster game and want to keep it under DRM then ChevronWP7 weakens your security.

A development system cannot be both open and closed at the same time and Microsoft's attempt to have WP7 a little bit open is absurd.

ChevronWP7 Labs

#### Related news:

Windows Phone 7 gets a legal unlocker