Windows Phone 7 'Jailbreak' Tool Pulled Offline

Just days after three well-known bloggers and developers posted a tool that purports to unlock Windows Phone 7 handsets, the app has been pulled from the Web on Microsoft's insistence.

The tool, dubbed ChevronWP7, was designed to enable anyone to unlock a WP7 device without a Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Marketplace developer account, according to a blog post late last week by the team that developed the tool.

In a follow-up post on the ChevronWP7 blog on Wednesday, the bloggers said they had taken down the tool shortly after they were contacted by Brandon Watson, director of developer experience for Windows Phone 7.

"Through this discussion, we established a mutual understanding of our intent to enable homebrew opportunities and to open the Windows Phone 7 platform for broader access to developers and users," said the bloggers' follow-up post.

The post was signed by bloggers Chris Walsh, Long Zheng, and Rafael Rivera.

"Brandon Watson has agreed to engage in further discussions with us about officially facilitating homebrew development on WP7. To fast-track discussions, we are discontinuing the unlocking tool effective immediately," Wednesday's post said.

Jailbreaking, or unlocking, devices like smartphones and tablet devices such as the iPad, enables developers to get more intimate access to the device's hardware and systems. For consumers, it lets them install apps from non-sanctioned sources.

The entire subject has been one fraught with controversies -- between developers and phone makers over how much access they should grant to the interior workings of the system, and between vendors and consumers over issues such as pirating apps.

Jailbreaking programs have been around for some time and there are tools for unlocking most of the most popular phones, including iPhone and Android devices.

However, ChevronWP7 is apparently the first for Windows Phone 7 devices, which Microsoft officially launched on Oct. 11, and became available in the U.S. beginning on Nov. 8.

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed that the company had been in contact with the team as well as verified the content of their blog post, but otherwise declined to comment.

If Microsoft stiff-armed the three developer bloggers, they didn't show it, or perhaps they were putting the best face on it.

"We are excited to explore the opportunity to become more involved with the shaping of the platform and to build a feedback channel for developers around the world," the ChevronWP7 blog posting said.

Certainly, Microsoft and other phone providers don't like jailbreaking tools -- which arrived soon after the iPhone was introduced, for example, partly because of the piracy issue but also because of users being able to "side load" apps from other sources than sanctioned marketplaces, said one analyst.

However, ChevronWP7 is not likely to be the only jailbreak product for Windows Phone 7 that Microsoft will have to contend with going forward, according to Jack Gold, founder and principal analyst at J.Gold Associates.

"I think this is step one ... you're going to see a lot of these jailbreaking tools come out for Windows Phone 7, Gold told InternetNews.com.

"Any time you put out a new [locked] update, it's jailbroken immediately," he added.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.


Microsoft, mobile, Windows Phone, Windows Phone 7, jailbreak