Windows Phone 7 takes the Road Less Traveled
ChevronWP7, the Windows Phone 7 sideloading "unlocker", is no more. The design team has removed it at the request of Microsoft. We all knew this was destined to happen. Giant, looming, closed-minded Microsoft was BOUND to respond violently to anything that jeopardized their total con-
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Oh wait, nope. The exact opposite happened. The founders of ChevronWP7 only killed their app because Microsoft agreed to sanction an official homebrew app solution.
These apps, which break traditional WP7 rules by allowing direct access to hardware or by duplicating core functions, are unlikely to ever hit the Windows Phone Marketplace. But that doesn't mean that Microsoft wants to stomp on developer creativity or piss off a big chunk of the population that builds their precious apps. The exact form of this 'homebrew store' hasn't been settled yet, but it looks like dev input will have a big impact on the end result.
An 'official' homebrew app solution puts Microsoft in good with developers. That has been one of the driving focuses behind Windows Phone 7 since its launch. And it seems to be working. Developers are flocking to WP7, which has over 3,000 apps a month after its launch in the US.
Those apps are the lifeblood of an OS that seems to be having trouble picking up customers. Early metrics research has confirmed at least 120,000 users. The real number is probably two to three times that. Which isn't great- we're quite a bit off from seeing crowds of customers waiting days in advance to buy WP7 handsets.
But a major update is due soon, and staggeringly reasonable moves like this may be evidence that Redmond is willing to try new things in order to differentiate their platform.