Are you deterred from developing for the Windows Phone 7 by the $99 unlocking fee? If so ChevronWP7's $9 "side-loading" fee may be the incentive you need.
The story of ChevronWP7 and its attempt to make Windows Phone 7 open without upsetting Microsoft is a story that should amaze you. As we reported at the time, a while back, a group of programmers created a utility that would take your Microsoft controlled phone and set it free, so that you could install any program you wanted to on it without having to ask permission from Microsoft or pay them any money. This was true freedom, but then Microsoft had a word with the enterprising developers, gave them a few T-shirts and told them that Microsoft wasn't against what they were doing, but could they join the Microsoft team and do it in a more controlled way. The jailbreaking program was withdrawn and ChevronWP7 was born.
The idea was that Microsoft would allow WP7 to be jailbroken but only in limited sorts of ways. Think of it more like parole than a jailbreak.
Now we have news that the ChevronWP7 is about to be launched - what the months of delay have all been about is something of a mystery. What is interesting is that the terms of the parole have been hinted at:
"The ChevronWP7 Labs site and service was designed to allow hobbyist developers to install, run, and debug unsigned applications on their personal Windows Phone."
All you need is a phone and a Windows Live ID. Yes, you noticed - your jailbreak is going to be tied to your Windows Live ID. While it is made clear that the phone itself isn't tied to the Live ID, it is also clear that your purchase of a jailbreak is.
"After registering, users will have the ability to purchase and manage what we’re calling “unlock tokens”. One token equals one unique Windows Phone device registration."
Tokens are going to cost around $9 and each token can be reused to unlock the phone as many times as necessary, but the one-token-one-phone rule applies. You will be able to use the desktop unlocking tool to install your app in much the same way as an official App Hub account. The "unlocking" is still clearly playing by Microsoft rules in that you are still limited to 10 side-loaded applications, i.e. ones not going through the app store.
Is this an increase in freedom for WP7 developers?
You can now write a program and test it on your phone for $9 without involving Microsoft at all. However, if you want to let a few of your friends, family or company use your app then each one will have to pay the $9 and side- load the application just as you did - fine for a developer not so good for an end user.
The real madness here is that Microsoft is happy with this situation. What sense does it make for Microsoft to set up a control mechanism with one set of rules and then allow a third party to create another mechanism that slight circumvents those rules?
There is also the point that while ChevronWP7 makes it easier for the hobbyist and experimenter to put uncontrolled apps on the phone it does nothing for the need to install custom enterprise apps. Currently there is a big untapped market for apps that are available to the authorized members of a single company without being on sale in a market place or without having to go through "hobbyist" level installation.
If you want to get a parole for your WP7 phone then, very soon, you will be able to apply for one at the cost of $9. However, if you want a phone that was never in jail in the first place you could just switch to Android. This is a marketing issue that Microsoft should think about very carefully.
Windows Phone 7 gets a legal unlocker
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