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Print 10 comment(s) - last by leexgx.. on Jan 3 at 8:27 AM

Microsoft's approval will be needed if it decides to bump the token count

Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows Phone still has a lot of promise for sales success in the smartphone space, but that promise has thus far gone almost wholly unrealized.  Still, the company has a loyal contingent of developers that have ensured that while Windows Phone may not rival Google Inc.'s (GOOG) or Apple, Inc.'s (AAPLmega app stores in content numbers, that it at least isn't as anemic in apps as Hewlett-Packard Comp.'s (HPQ) semi-defunct webOS.

But the flow of new developers, the lifeblood sustaining Microsoft's fledgling effort, may be at risk as the company's "official" jailbreak tool has closed shop for the time being.

Like Apple (and unlike Google), Microsoft charges developers a fee to get access to its applications market and applications loading on physical devices.  Its asking price is $99 USD per year.  Of course for beginning devs this isn't the friendliest approach as it doesn't always make sense to pay $99 USD a year if you don't know XNA/C#/etc., and won't be able to release commercial product for a while.

Rebellious "jailbreakers" came up with the solution -- devise methods to allow the sideloading of unauthorized apps.  With the approach, you can grab a copy of the SDK and start programming homebrew apps without having to pay Microsoft its toll.  Of course the ultimate goal is to go commercial, so Microsoft still benefits in the long run.

The king of the jailbreakers back in 2010, when Windows Phone launched, was the ChevronWP7 tool.  Microsoft initially considered stomping out the jailbreak, but relented, agreeing to make ChevronWP7 team its "official" jailbreakers, for reasons similar to those outlined above.  

Microsoft clearly didn't want to let loose an unlimited number of jailbreak licenses, so it and ChevronWP7 team agreed to a token system.  Under the system ChevronWP7 would sell a certain number of tokens (licenses) for $9 each, with each token allowing a single Windows Phone handset to be jailbroken for sideloading.

Windows Phone Jailbreak
The ChevronWP7 has been Windows Phones' only authorized jailbreak solution -- plus they have a good sense of humor. [Image Source: IStartedSomething]

The system already hit a snag once when these tokens ran out.  ChevronWP7 approached Microsoft, asking them to allow the limit to be bumped to 10,000 tokens.  Now that limit has been hit.

ChevronWP7 guru Rafael Rivera comments via Twitter, "Our agreement with Microsoft was to sell no more than 10,000 tokens, hence "sold out". We're discussing if we want to up that number."

He later clarifies what he means in an email to The Verge, writing:

Rivera has revealed "Microsoft isn’t involved in our discussion just yet." The ChevronWP7 team are deciding amongst themselves whether they want to approach Microsoft for additional tokens. ChevronWP7 has previously sold out of tokens after milestones were reached. "We had to request another chunk," said Rivera in an email to us, but that 10,000 was "the original limit since day one."

There are other jailbreak solutions out there for Windows Phone, such as the DFT Freedom ROMs or The WindowBreak Project.  But there are no guarantees that Microsoft won't crack down on these unauthorized solutions.

One thing is clear -- if Microsoft kills jailbreaking it will be a blow to its courtship of new developers.  After all, Apple may be able to do that -- but Apple is Apple.  With Google offering free development and Microsoft for the time badly trailing Apple and Google in market share, it needs to be as friendly to developers as possible -- and that includes allowing homebrew/jailbreaks.

Sources: ChevronWP7, The Verge



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Times have changed
By amanojaku on 1/2/2012 9:55:44 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Like Apple (and unlike Google), Microsoft charges developers a fee to get access to its SDK and applications market. Its asking price is $99 USD per year. Of course for beginning devs this isn't the friendliest approach as it doesn't always make sense to pay $99 USD a year if you don't know XNA/C#/etc., and won't be able to release commercial product for a while.
$100 used to buy two programming books. Now, you can save the money and learn online. So why is $100/year too much of an investment for someone serious about being a developer? I'm totally against the idea of paying a percentage of software sales, but paying a low, flat fee to support the developers program makes sense, even for people giving away free apps.




RE: Times have changed
By mcnabney on 1/2/2012 10:08:58 AM , Rating: 1
Choosing to charge for the SDK, like Apple, just shows how out of touch Microsoft is. And blocking sideloading is probably the #1 reason I chose Android over WP7.


RE: Times have changed
By kleinma on 1/2/2012 10:15:19 AM , Rating: 5
They do not charge for the SDK. They charge to load the apps into the app store and sell them through the app store infrastructure.

You can pay 0 dollars to download, install, and use the development tools. You can create entire apps without ever actually deploying to a real device and paying the fee using the WP7 device emulator. It is only once you want to go live you would need to pay the 100 bucks. Granted yes at some point before going live you are going to need to actually test and run your app on hardware, but someone can get started learning how to develop for the platform totally for free before deciding if they will actually be able to make something and publish it to the store and pay the fee.

In my opinion it might keep the overall numbers of apps down, but it should in theory keep some (not all) of the totally useless crap apps out that make up a large number of what apple and android use to boast how many apps their phones can run. There must literally be thousands of totally useless crap apps out there in those markets.


RE: Times have changed
By Mitch101 on 1/2/2012 11:14:35 AM , Rating: 2
Correct the developer tools are 100% free, Microsoft also offers 1-day free training classes that are very good showing you two to three ways you can develop apps, plenty of sample code to use, and has a number of demonstrations online.

If you attend the one day seminar Microsoft generally gives away these for free if you develop an app while in the class.

Its only if you plan to publish something for purchase that you have to pay the fee which unlocks your phone so you no longer have to use the emulator and can run the application your developing on the phone.

This keeps people from releasing 50,000 Fart and Flashlight apps because of the fee. You might as well develop something worth while if your going to pay a fee. If it were free bring on the fart, flashlight, and useless crap.


RE: Times have changed
By sprockkets on 1/2/2012 2:22:20 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
This keeps people from releasing 50,000 Fart and Flashlight apps because of the fee. You might as well develop something worth while if your going to pay a fee. If it were free bring on the fart, flashlight, and useless crap.


"50k" fart and flashlight apps exist on iOS and they charge $99 soooo...


RE: Times have changed
By Mitch101 on 1/2/2012 6:11:33 PM , Rating: 2
One company thinks its important to brag about 500,000 apps when all you really need is 40-50 good ones. If you have the most desired apps out there say top 200 which would probably account for 95% of the people then your smartphone is equal to the others out there. Having an additional million useless or duplicate ones is just that useless.


RE: Times have changed
By leexgx on 1/3/2012 8:27:13 AM , Rating: 2
i agree, having 500,000 apps when only 100 of them are useful the other 499,000 are just spamming app/pics/backgrounds/ringtones noobs (that could of been in one app)

on android it seems to crap load of Porn pictures, backgrounds and ringtones

and there is rip off apps that have just used code from another app or lame Browser link apps that are just websites using google webkit or even more basic just an button that opens the main browser to an site that wishes to turn your phone into an bot or steal info

at least when i get an windows 7 phone i know that most of the apps may have an use


RE: Times have changed
By Belegost on 1/2/2012 1:09:10 PM , Rating: 2
But more to the point - $100? Really? $100 cost to do business is some ridiculous price point? If a potential developer can't cough up $100 to put their product on the shelf, then I rather feel they aren't a serious enough developer.

Just to head off any arguments, if you're a student, you can get the same developer account for free. So spare me any stories about starving students.

So overall I don't see the legitimate developer purpose of this tool. 10,000 tokens have been given out... so where are these 10,000 developers? With only ~50k apps on the market, I doubt there's 10k serious developers in total.

However, unlocking the OS has some value as an end user, you can add custom colors for your tiles, you can change system fonts, and add custom sound files for all events. What MS needs to do is release official, safe, tools for facilitating these customizations. At which point the unlocking tools become rather pointless.


RE: Times have changed
By sprockkets on 1/2/2012 2:25:38 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
So overall I don't see the legitimate developer purpose of this tool. 10,000 tokens have been given out... so where are these 10,000 developers? With only ~50k apps on the market, I doubt there's 10k serious developers in total.


I believe those are people downloading the app to jailbreak their devices, or at least sideload.

It's quite a convoluted/half-hearted way to do what Android does with "check here to install non Google Market apps."


RE: Times have changed
By Penti on 1/2/2012 7:18:12 PM , Rating: 4
The point of the app is to legitimately sideload homebrew applications not just for developer to test applications. All homebrew obviously are not suitable for Marketplace because of early in development phase, or developers that can't get their homebrew app through the censorship of the marketplace or tools that doesn't necessarily fit into that space. It does not unlock the OS however. And number of published apps doesn't correspond to the number of developers, testers and so on. It's number of developers not number of companies publishing stuff. Developers as individuals needs their own accounts too probably for testing. You also has "Targeted Users" distribution for applications which won't show up in the public marketplace. Distribution of an app which can be loaded through using Chevron means you can say send out a beta-app to more then 100 people, it can be software that various groups are interested in.

It's essentially $9 instead of $99 for running homebrew apps, testing stuff and what amount to full developer unlock of the device for up to ten applications. Obviously it's a good idea for getting developers, hobbyists and none-wp7 (yet) developers introduced into the platform. More that learns about it the better, otherwise it's just a black box. That doesn't instill confidence if it's hidden away. Apple can get away with it because it's still fairly open and lots of developers are already introduced into that platform. If nobody knows anything about the technicalities of the platform why would companies turn to it? Their developers obviously has more insight if they already had a hobbyist account for 9 bucks. All account-holders obviously don't need to publish apps.


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