U.S. Gov't legalizes 'jailbreaking' but what does it mean for Windows Phone 7?

One of the biggest changes to the Windows Phone 7 ecosystem is the installation of applications: you can only install them via the Marketplace and all programs need to be approved by Microsoft.

A lot of anger was directed against Microsoft for this decision, but we actually see why they would want to do this: consistency (security & performance) and a one-stop place to get software (simplicity). And at least unlike Apple, they promised to be much more transparent during the approval process.

Still, with so called no "side loading" of applications (only available to developers), some users are weary of going down the Apple route, even is Redmond is not as Puritan, well, except for 'suggestive' material.

Yesterday, the U.S. Government added new exemptions to the 'fair use' policy allowed by, the some would say draconian, Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. Amongst these exemptions, the one gaining all the headlines relates to how it is basically now legal to 'jailbreak' your iPhone and install third-party programs. In response, details on how to install 'Cydia' (an unofficial iTunes app store) have been posted on tech-blogs, previously a verboten topic.

What does this mean for Windows Phone 7?

It is safe to assume that Microsoft will go ahead with their current Marketplace plans and to be honest, we're okay with that as we think for most consumers, it will be perfect. For one, it has try-before-you-buy built in, something that the Apple App Store lacks--this missing features does drive some to install Cydia or Installous (the later is even more verboten)--so the necessity to "get around" Microsoft will be attenuated. Second, Microsoft promises to be more transparent and less-restrictive than Apple-ergo less motivation for a 'unofficial' Marketplace.

But, it also means that Microsoft can not legally try and shut down alternative app stores for Windows Phone 7 (and still win in court), but they still can try to block those who try to install third-party software or use their code.

This seems to be  a big victory, in theory, for the open-source and modding crowd e.g. XDA, who presumably could release their own WP7 store. But really, a lot of this will depend on if Microsoft decides to play hardball with the 'fringe' developer community (Apple), embrace them (Android) or take the middle ground as they usually do i.e. don't condone it, but aren't being jerks about it either.

Needless to say, it'll be quite interesting to see how all of this plays out in a few months, but we may be looking at a much more interesting Windows Phone 7 future.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • I doubt this would mean much for WP7 as I think rooting the device won't give people as much freedom as they think. I saw this because I believe the OS builds that will go out to OEMs and thus be on phones won't have any unfinished/hidden features/APIs that you could then get access to. Rooting could, at the most, probably give you access to the registry, and then any small tweaks that could bring, but I don't expect anything drastic.
  • Rooting gives access to sideloading, which paves the way for alternative app stores. Developers will be able to do this by 'unlocking' the device, which is something we can, in theory, now all do without legal consequence.
  • I think you need to go back and read what the decision since your initial premise is absolutely wrong. The U.S. Copyright Office didn't legalize jail-breaking, it only went as far to say jail-breaking isn't a violation of copyright law. The Copyright Office basically said that jail-breaking didn't violate the DMCA's circumvention of technical protection measures rule. So if Apple wants to show that jail-breaking is illegal, it can't use that rule to do so. There's the rub. Apple could still convince the Copyright Office and courts that jail-breaking is illegal using either patent, contract, or copyright law (as long as they don't invoke the DMCA and the supposed violation exceeds reasonable fair use.) This story still has legs. Basically what owners got is a further clarification of "fair use" when it comes to the iPhone. Owners can futz all they want with their personal iPhone without fear of legal repercussions. However, if they use tools that incorporate or rely on Apple IP and heaven forbid, share such tools, things get murky very fast.
  • I was waiting for it to be legalized. I am so happy for this.
    Revolution E-Cigarette
  • Me too!!
    Muscle Morph