Microsoft to officially support homebrew developments on Windows Phone 7

Microsoft will soon support homebrew developments on their Windows Phone 7 platform following two days of meetings with developers behind the ChevronWP7 unlocking tool.

Late last year following the release of Windows Phone 7, a team of developers uncovered a bug which allowed those with a device running the operating system to install applications on their device without using Microsoft's application store, dubbed the Marketplace.

It made headlines as technology enthusiasts fought over whether the release of the unlocking tool, ChevronWP7, was a good idea to enable freedom on the platform or if it was a bad idea, encouraging jailbreaking and piracy.

However the team behind the software were soon contacted by Microsoft's Brandon Watson, Director of Developer Experience for Windows Phone 7, who took a keen interest in the matter and encouraged the developers to cease offering the tool while discussions about ChevronWP7's future continued between Microsoft and the developers.

Fast track to today, and the future is looking bright for developers and users alike seeking to install apps or customise their Windows Phone 7 device further than the Marketplace allows. In a blog post on the ChevronWP7 website, developers Rafael RiveraChris Walsh and Long Zheng confirm the software giant will soon offer an official way for people to "homebrew" develop on their devices, although just how this will happen is still being discussed.

"We're collaborating with Microsoft on an interim solution that will continue to support homebrew developments after the update," the trio wrote. "We will share details of this when it has been finalized."

The breakthrough comes following a two day meeting held at Microsoft's Redmond campus earlier in the month, which Rivera, Walsh and Zheng were invited to. Microsoft confirmed during the meetings that an update will be pushed out "soon" which will fix the bug which allowed the Chevron WP7 tool to work, rendering the unlocking tool useless.

The future isn't looking too gloomy though, with the trio "genuinely excited" about what the future holds for Windows Phone 7, saying they'll continue to work with Microsoft to "support mutual goals of broadening access to the platform while protecting intellectual property and ensuring platform security."

"We appreciate Microsoft's outreach, genuine interest and involvement in this matter and we hope the community can understand we're working towards a win-win scenario."

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I would have been more shocked if Microsoft had pulled their plans for non-market development.

When MS was first showing WP7, they were already talking about custom applications, but it wasn't a priority for the initial release.

The reason this was 'then' and 'now' important to MS and WP7 is the corporate environments where custom applications that can do anything and access lower layers is necessary for many companies.

i.e. If GM wanted an App that monitored electrical testing on the assembly line, they would not want to release an App on the marketplace, and they might need access to custom or lower level WinCE APIs and drivers for specialized devices.

This will be essential for WP7 and also will help define the benefits of WP7 versus the upcoming WinCE 7.0 release for companies what would rather move their internal Apps to phone and WP7 based devices with the more advanced .NET/Silverlight OS Platform.

satukoro said,
This could mean emulators making their way to WP7. I'm glad Microsoft is opening up.

Yep... But I fully understand why ethically and legally why Microsoft would not allow generice/non-licensed emulators on the Marketplace.

Microsoft is a software company, and has even had a hand in a lot of the games that are running on emulators. Then contrast this with the licensing Microsoft has paid for and partners that own older games for the Arcade titles on XBox and WP7, and it is intellectual property to them.

I'll +123456 or whatever this great news.

Some people seem to fear the free vs paid, but come on, Microsoft makes more money the more people that use the OS, that use the OS backend (azure framework for hosting/cloud apps) the live services so on and so forth than they do collecting a 10-15% royalty on marketplace where much of their costs are eaten trying to manage it.

Why is there no "edit" option on posted comments browsing from an iPad? Grrr... And why aren't these posts showing up in "My Content"?

keuka said,
Why is there no "edit" option on posted comments browsing from an iPad? Grrr... And why aren't these posts showing up in "My Content"?

You probably have to jailbreak it. If not there should be an app for it. Else you are probably just holding it wrong. Sorry but I just couldn't resist

recursive said,

You probably have to jailbreak it. If not there should be an app for it. Else you are probably just holding it wrong. Sorry but I just couldn't resist

ROFL

Wow, this is very un-Microsoft of the past, but let's hope this is something to look forward to in Microsoft of the future.

It's hard to get that image of that nut prancing on stage screaming "developers" over and over again, but as hard to believe as it is, so far in the Ballmer era, it's been pretty damn good for Microsoft. Maybe Ballmer's passion for the company is a similar drive that Steve Jobs has for Apple. Or maybe it is also because Gates lost interest in Microsoft and more interested in his charity. So Bill Gates leaving Microsoft is not only good for his work as philanthropist, but it seems to good for Microsoft as well.

I don't understand; wouldn't this be like shooting themselves in the foot? I mean, won't this take away from their "Marketplace"? If all the attention moves to homebrew development and applications and WinMo 6.5 apps and such; who's going to want to develop for or purchase apps from the "Marketplace" app store?

keuka said,
I don't understand; wouldn't this be like shooting themselves in the foot? I mean, won't this take away from their "Marketplace"? If all the attention moves to homebrew development and applications and WinMo 6.5 apps and such; who's going to want to develop for or purchase apps from the "Marketplace" app store?

People will always use the Marketplace as the primary source for getting/buying apps. However, we will have the choice to download and install apps without having them first submitted to Microsoft.

keuka said,
I don't understand; wouldn't this be like shooting themselves in the foot? I mean, won't this take away from their "Marketplace"? If all the attention moves to homebrew development and applications and WinMo 6.5 apps and such; who's going to want to develop for or purchase apps from the "Marketplace" app store?

If homebrew is left to free apps and free apps only, then paid apps still go to the marketplace, I think this is the distinction MS wants. You can sideload your apps as long as they're free and or not doing something illegal.

GP007 said,

If homebrew is left to free apps and free apps only, then paid apps still go to the marketplace, I think this is the distinction MS wants. You can sideload your apps as long as they're free and or not doing something illegal.


Don't you see what I mean? Who will want to "buy" apps when there will likely be free home brew alternatives, and when the traffic shifts in favor of free alternatives, developers will likely migrate

keuka said,

Don't you see what I mean? Who will want to "buy" apps when there will likely be free home brew alternatives, and when the traffic shifts in favor of free alternatives, developers will likely migrate

There's already plenty of free apps on the marketplace already, there's always going to be that situation. Those on the marketplace will ensure a certain level of stability and safety for what it's worth. And Xbox Live games will still be safe.

keuka said,

Don't you see what I mean? Who will want to "buy" apps when there will likely be free home brew alternatives, and when the traffic shifts in favor of free alternatives, developers will likely migrate

The same (millions of) people that buy Office and don't use OpenOffice, for example. Alternatives are crappy 99% of the time.

GP007 said,
If homebrew is left to free apps and free apps only, then paid apps still go to the marketplace, I think this is the distinction MS wants. You can sideload your apps as long as they're free and or not doing something illegal.

That will be awesome - VLC on WP7 FTW!

Awesome! The fee to unlock it for development has been the only thing stopping me getting a WP7 device, as I just can't afford it... Not when I only really want a few little apps for private use!

FloatingFatMan said,
Awesome! The fee to unlock it for development has been the only thing stopping me getting a WP7 device, as I just can't afford it... Not when I only really want a few little apps for private use!

Yeah, I agree. I'm really curious to see how this is handled in the end. Of course I still have to wait for WP7 to come to Verizon (When, oh when??), but at that point I would like to make a few things of my own...

With Microsoft officially supporting homebrew, and Android being open by nature, Apple is the only one left who is still running their maximum security prison err i meant iOS

Master1 said,
With Microsoft officially supporting homebrew, and Android being open by nature, Apple is the only one left who is still running their maximum security prison err i meant iOS

Heard of "Jailbreaking"? It was recently ruled legal.

keuka said,

Heard of "Jailbreaking"? It was recently ruled legal.

Sure, but no thanks. We would rather stick with a phone that we don't have to jail 'break' to fix what should have been available by default.

recursive said,
Sure, but no thanks. We would rather stick with a phone that we don't have to jail 'break' to fix what should have been available by default.

True, and every update and upgrade the jailbreak is undermined - I agree, I'd sooner see the system open from the start than requiring dodgy third party cracks.

Master1 said,
With Microsoft officially supporting homebrew, and Android being open by nature, Apple is the only one left who is still running their maximum security prison err i meant iOS

To play devils advocate, when you run a marketing campaign "life without walls" you better make sure you don't have any walls when it comes to people using their device in the way they see fit

recursive said,

Sure, but no thanks. We would rather stick with a phone that we don't have to jail 'break' to fix what should have been available by default.

"We?" Who are you speaking for? Checked the iPhone sales lately?

recursive said,

Sure, but no thanks. We would rather stick with a phone that we don't have to jail 'break' to fix what should have been available by default.

Meego supports full development by 3rd parties and even offers you full source code.

Can Microsoft ante up on that offer?

Mr Nom Nom's said,

To play devils advocate, when you run a marketing campaign "life without walls" you better make sure you don't have any walls when it comes to people using their device in the way they see fit

Being that they didn't mean walled gardens which the average user has never heard of, and doesn't care about...they aren't losing out on many customers over it.

greenwizard88 said,
WOW! Excellent news. Suck it, Apple!

It's too "Micro" and too "Soft" to do such... So... Um... No.... Fail!

YYYYYYYYYYYYESS!

Finally, this is going to be sweet. If this is true, I see a lot of movement happening once it's all sorted out.

Ukumio said,

That would be quite a way to get a job.

I've seen odder ways. I already witnessed an event where a fellow beta tester went on to become a project manager at Microsoft.

Very nice indeed.

I know it might have been one of Windows Mobile's weaknesses, in the quality of the apps, but with Windows Phone 7, I think if we have the right kind of people developing apps, whether they're on the Marketplace, or via standalone distribution, we might have something good. If they can't even allow that, then they would have lost out big.

Good to hear. It was pretty silly of them to purposely disable features on an OS that fully supported it. For those in the dark, WP7 is basically WinMo 6.5 with a new GUI and a newer WinCE kernel, not a new OS as Microsoft tries to imply (or explicitly say).
They just need to enable the cab installer and most WinMO 6.5 apps will work on it.

zivan56 said,
Good to hear. It was pretty silly of them to purposely disable features on an OS that fully supported it. For those in the dark, WP7 is basically WinMo 6.5 with a new GUI and a newer WinCE kernel, not a new OS as Microsoft tries to imply (or explicitly say).
They just need to enable the cab installer and most WinMO 6.5 apps will work on it.

You are just an idiot who is trying to sound intelligent...
Nice try, but you failed... TROLL...

zivan56 said,
Good to hear. It was pretty silly of them to purposely disable features on an OS that fully supported it. For those in the dark, WP7 is basically WinMo 6.5 with a new GUI and a newer WinCE kernel, not a new OS as Microsoft tries to imply (or explicitly say).
They just need to enable the cab installer and most WinMO 6.5 apps will work on it.

You really have no idea whatsoever about what you're talking about I'm sorry to say... :facepalm:

zivan56 said,
You guys are embarrassing yourselves...I suggest reading up on it and not repeating spoon fed propaganda.

Virtually none of the WinMO 6.5 apps will work, not least because quite a number of the older API's they rely on simply don't exist in Windows Phone 7 o.O Considering they also wrote a largely new codebase for Windows Phone 7 on top of the WinCE kernel, and didn't reuse much of the older WinMo 6.5, I fail to see how you think these older programs will work.

zivan56 said,
You guys are embarrassing yourselves...I suggest reading up on it and not repeating spoon fed propaganda.

No offence mate but you should probably look at the mirror. Your information is totally and utterly wrong, sorry.

zivan56 said,
Good to hear. It was pretty silly of them to purposely disable features on an OS that fully supported it. For those in the dark, WP7 is basically WinMo 6.5 with a new GUI and a newer WinCE kernel, not a new OS as Microsoft tries to imply (or explicitly say).
They just need to enable the cab installer and most WinMO 6.5 apps will work on it.

Windows Phone is only an updated kernel with a new UI - how is that a bad thing? Isn't that the same with any new operating system? it is amazing that you ignore that Silverlight is the new framework on which all future applications will be based, the new native API for third parties to use, the new frameworks provided for games makers to use etc.

zivan56 said,
Good to hear. It was pretty silly of them to purposely disable features on an OS that fully supported it. For those in the dark, WP7 is basically WinMo 6.5 with a new GUI and a newer WinCE kernel, not a new OS as Microsoft tries to imply (or explicitly say).
They just need to enable the cab installer and most WinMO 6.5 apps will work on it.

In technical terms, you are partially correct, but this does not make what you are saying correct.

1) Missing the concept of what an OS is in modern terms.
2) Missing what the .NET/Silverlight is as an OS platform, and how improtant this is.
3) WinCE as the kernel/core does not mean all the upper level WinCE libraries are available. So the notion of just running older WinMo WinCE applications would be problematic at best.

Yes the base OS kernel and drivers and low level layer are simply WinCE (a variation that is beyond 6.x, but probably not the final release of WinCE 7.0). The move to the WinCE 7.0 kernel is why there have been restrictions, as there are changes in drivers and base functionality that is new to even veteran WinCE developers and hardware MFRs.

WinCE is not bad, it is far lighter than iOS and Android's Linux kernel models. It also has a more efficient and powerful driver model when used in the moble context.

This is why the Snapdragon GPU in the WP7 is showing performance 5-10x over what Qualcomm was getting when using a generic Linux or Android driver set. Go pull the numbers.

WP7 with the WinCE drivers for Snapdragon is pushing graphical numbers far above the iPhone4 and in the range as the fastest mobile GPUs. This speed comes from WinCE, its driver model and mobile DirectX (XNA) when contrasted to the previous numbers that were based on Linux and OpenGL ES from the Android.

WinCE is a good thing here, as it was designed for low powered mobile devices and has been being optimized for them for over 10 years. WinCE used to run on 133mhz devices with minimal GPU features. So a 1ghz device with GPU capabilities in the DX9 range provides a massive amount of power for WinCE.

iOS and Android's base kernels and hardware driver models are not light nor optimized for mobile devices when compared to WinCE that took ideas from NT and was completely designed specifically for efficiency on low powered mobile devices.

However, there are WinCE libraries that are missing from the build on WP7, as they are no longer needed, so just expecting the device to expose or even have the base WinCE application and UI API sets is not a correct assumption.


So...
What is an OS?

Well you can go generic terms of base input output or kernel terms. However, these are old ideas of what an OS is in today's modern world. If you go by either of these definitions then Windows7 is not a new OS, as the base kernel and layers are essentially the same as NT 3.1. OS X is not also not a new OS, as it is just NeXt/XNU. (Even though both are NEW OSes with regard to the upper layers and OS application platform.)

What makes the OS 'new' is...
1) Changes to the kernel and integration of new technologies, which WP7 qualifies
2) Changes in the upper layers of application functionality, again, WP7 qualifies.
3) A whole new Application/OS platform running on the base kernel, WP7 qualifies.

WP7 is a new OS, as the application and upper layers of the OS are all .NET based with a full Silverlight OS platform for applications. (In addition to a new optimized XNA framework.)

This means that sure WP7 is using WinCE as the kernel, but the way applications are developed is entirely NEW. Making the application and upper OS platform sometime completely new, not even a revision.

So is WP7 is a new OS, Yes. Is WP7 created entirely from scratch, no.


Why is the new 'Silverlight' and OS platform stuff important?

The whole WPF concepts introduced in Vista is a new conceptual programming model, that Silverlight also follows. This is the next jump in programming from how applications are put together to the extensive objecit oriented nature of the OS and Applications.

WP7 is not only a massive OS platform change, but a new concept for an OS platform.

It expands richness to levels many developers are still figuring out is there and 'automated' and also is moving developers down a smarter development path. This is where a true object 'oriented' OS platform, and object 'oriented' application model becomes real and offers the development world a glimpse of what is to come and the power this creates for applications to have this kind of relationship with the OS and OS platform.

This seems like a small difference to some, but when controls and objects are no longer broken and even generic constructs created can be based on OS models that are no longer just 'object based' it allows a powerful and adaptive model so that changes in OS functionality gets propagated to the application and back to the OS as well. It should be the end of dumb or 'unlinked' objects, which is what JAVA on Android and Cocoa/ObjectiveC give you on iPhone.

WP7 is not perfect, nor is the new .NET/Silverlight platform fully polished or matured, but it is already out the door with features Android and iOS were missing and because of how it is designed, has features that are still missing in Android and iOS and won't ever be available on Android or iOS unless their applicaition platform is completely redesigned.

(Heck, just the inherent GPU acceleration features, based on the 'objected oriented' nature of WP7 give applications a lot of speed that simply is not yet available on Android, and has limited support on iOS.)

To be serious, to dismiss what WP7 is lacking some understanding and it would be just as silly for someone to have written about OS X when it was released in the same context you have about WP7. (i.e. OS X old XNU kernel, old display PDF, old NeXT application framework)

I agree with most of what you said but this

thenetavenger said,

iOS and Android's base kernels and hardware driver models are not light nor optimized for mobile devices ...

Specially Android. Do you have any idea how many low powered devices run Linux kernel and how light it is?

Joshua Wade Barfield said,
Nice! This might actually help out WP7 from a developer's stand point. But on the other hand it could compromise the security and stability of WP7.

The reason they're doing this is to try and help security. They realise homebrew is inevitable, but they want it done in such a way that it doesn't end up promoting piracy or removing all the security features of the OS. By working with homebrew developers, they can develop a solution that lets us play around, whilst still satisfying at least some of their security requirements,