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Windows Phone 7 Modified To Run Custom Apps

ChevronWP7 eliminates the need for a $99 annual Microsoft developer registration, but critics argue the tool will increase application piracy.

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On Thursday, three developers released an application that allows Windows Phone 7 (WP7) users to install third-party applications on their devices without having to use the Windows Phone Marketplace.

According to the developers, their ChevronWP7 software allows anyone to "unlock any WP7 device on the market using a USB cable and just a couple clicks." By unlocking, the developers weren't referring to uncrippling phones sold by carriers or enabling the phone to work with a different carrier.

Rather, "unlocking allows the sideloading of experimental applications that... otherwise can't be published to the Marketplace, such as those which access private or native APIs," they said. ChevronWP7, which out of the box allows up to 10 custom applications to be installed, is also reversible, meaning that unlocked phones could be relocked with it.

Numerous people lauded the free application. But the developers -- Rafael Rivera, Chris Walsh, and Long Zheng -- were also quickly forced to defend their software against charges that it creates an off-the-shelf technique for stealing Windows Phone software.

According to one Windows Phone application developer posting comments to the ChevronWP7 website under the name of Niall, such an application will lead to increased piracy. "The authors of this app simply don't give a toss about the ramifications of what they are doing," he said. "I'll be sure to drop back in and say 'I told you so' when the WP7 apps start appearing on torrent [websites] to join the hundreds of iPhone, PSP, Symbian, and Android apps already there."

In response, the ChevronWP7 developers said that "we do not condone piracy," noting that "we are all app developers ourselves and value the financial incentives of app development." They also said that "all Marketplace application XAP packages are sufficiently protected so that you cannot sideload to run them on any unlocked device." (XAP packages provide the client device link libraries, or DLLs, needed to run any given application.) "We have no intentions or knowledge to break that protection."

Rather, their goal was "to enable and create WP7 homebrew applications that cannot be submitted to the Marketplace in the first place" -- as well as to avoid having to pay Microsoft to get access to one's own device. According to developer Chris Walsh, "basically what you needed to do was pay Microsoft $99... to gain 'access' to the device you paid for, so you are able to deploy applications you have created."

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