The legalized Jailbreak that was organized by Microsoft and a group of hackers called ChevronWP7 is over. There are no more unlock tokens to be had and one of the strangest incidents you could imagine is over.
The ChevronWP7 group engineered a jailbreak for WP7. Then Microsoft got annoyed and then they offered the group some T-Shirts and help building a legal jailbreak. Everything went quiet for a while and then the ChevronWP7 Labs website appeared offering "legal" unlock tokens at $9 a time.
At first things didn't work well, but eventually they got it all to work. But when you got a token it was fairly restricted in what it could do. You also had to have a Windows Live ID, which allowed Microsoft to know who bought what. One token would only unlock one phone and you were still subject to a 10-app limit on what you could load.
So what all of this allowed you to do was develop an app but not to distribute it to friends or company members. You still needed to submit it to the App Hub for that.
It was a bit feeble, but better than nothing. However, there was another restriction built-in that wasn't clear at first. Microsoft had only authorized 10,000 unlock tokens and these ran out fairly quickly. At this point the world was expecting ChevronWP7 to negotiate for some more tokens - but no. And now the lab is closing its doors.
Now the jailbreak is referred to as "an experiment".
The goal of this experiment was two-fold: First, to determine if we could supercharge the Windows Phone beginner/hobbyist community by removing the initial cost barrier (i.e. App Hub membership.) And second, to convert potential developers into published developers.
The judgement on the success of the experiment is also interesting:
Our data indicates that most developers simply unlocked their devices for non-developmental reasons and never went all the way to publish an app in the marketplace.
Well this isn't surprising. Most experimenters and part-time WP7 programmers don't want to submit an app to the marketplace. They want to make some apps for use by themselves and a few other people. If it turns out that the app is useful, then perhaps an upgrade to the marketplace would follow. This is what experimentation is all about.
Microsoft have "generously" made the offer of a year's membership of the App Hub to all ChevronWP7 customers - just sign up using the same Windows Live account you used to buy an unlock token. See, they were keeping track of you after all.
The final kick to make sure that the unlocking experiment is really over and done with, is that all of the tokens will expire in 120 days from today. Making the announcement on Friday 13th was a nice final gesture.
The whole fiasco highlights the fact that Microsoft hasn't a clue as to why a closed system is a bad idea if what it is looking for is innovation. Programmers working after the day job and weekend programmers often create things in small stages. They think that it would be nice to have an app to do something very specific that only they and a few others would want. They don't want to have to join the App Hub and submit the marketplace to try something out.
Microsoft's loss is that, without the freedom to experiment, the one-in-a-hundred, or one-in-a-thousand good ideas just never see the light of day, or the marketplace. Add to this the fact that programmers like to own their work and know that they can run their code anytime they want to, and you can see why WP7 isn't as attractive as Android.
Yes, experiment is needed, but not the restrictive under-achiever that CheveronWP7 was forced into. If Microsoft wants apps for its phone, it needs to create a more open access to the phone itself.
Goodbye ChevronWP7 and the legal unlocking experiment - I doubt many will miss the opportunity.