Windows Phone Unlock Tool Goes Official

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ChevronWP7 Labs now lets users run home-made code on Windows Phones with Microsoft’s blessing

Windows Phone users on Friday officially received the ability to “unlock” their phones, which in this context means running home-brew applications that don’t pass through the Windows Phone Marketplace.

The ChevronWP7 tool, which emerged last year and was shut down, has re-emerged with Microsoft’s approval as ChevronWP7 Labs, a service costing $9 (36) per device.

Home-brew applications

The fee compares favourably to the $99 required to join Microsoft’s App Hub developer programme, the other route available for those who want to run unsigned applications on their Windows Phone devices.

ChevronWP7 Labs users who want to distribute their wares via the Windows Phone Marketplace are still required to sign up for the developer programme.

“ChevronWP7 Labs was designed to allow hobbyist developers to install, run, and debug unsigned applications on their personal Windows Phone,” wrote the tool’s developers, Rafael Rivera, Chris Walsh and Long Zheng, in a blog post. “You log into the site with your Windows Live ID, pay a small fee, and presto — you’re ready to write and share some homebrew code.”

Unsigned applications currently available include a screen capture tool, a web server and a battery status monitor, the developers said.

Users experienced problems with the payment system for ChevronWP7 Labs over the weekend, so the payment action has been temporariliy taken offline until the issues are resolved, the developers said on Saturday.

Unlocking

ChevronWP7 first made its debut last year, and Microsoft soon contacted the team to gently encourage them to rework the tool on the company’s terms.

In January Microsoft said it closed the programming loophole that had allowed ChevronWP7 to work in the first place.

Last month Nokia unveiled the Lumia 800 and 710 smartphones, its first devices to carry the Windows Phone operating system.

The Lumia 800 is in the final stages of production and distribution and will be released in the UK this month, as rumoured, with the cost of the device expected to be around €420 (£366) excluding VAT. Nokia said the user experience is centred on what users value most and CEO Stephen Elop declared that “Lumia is the first real Windows Phone”.

Microsoft hopes that the phones will extend the reach of the Windows Phone operating system and assist Nokia in taking on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems. Nokia is still the biggest mobile manufacturer in the world by volume, but its share in the smartphone market has been eroded in recent years, contributing to a decrease in revenue and operating profits.

Steve McCaskill contributed to this report.

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