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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





"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis







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