The latter piece though can be avoided, that is you don't have to run the Zune Desktop just to sideload a XAP file or even unlock your device (using ChevronWP7). XDA member xbodmod has described a way to just run the "connect" part without Zune, making the process much more streamlined. The process is fairly simple:
- Disable Zune auto-start (Zune --> Settings --> Software--> General --> "Start the Zune software..."
- Create a shortcut to desktop from C:\Program Files\Microsoft SDKs\Windows Phone\v7.0\Tools\WPConnect\WPConnect.exe
- Plug in phone
That's it. Just running WPConnect.exe and allowing it load for a second does the job and now you can run Tom's XAP installer, ChevronWP7, etc. We like simplicity around here.
Update: @adamUCF lets us know that Microsoft themselves have described this exact method, so credit to them first.