Developers pull tool that allowed unauthorized WP7 apps

The creators of ChevronWP7 are now working with Microsoft on making it easier to load homebrewed apps

The developers of a tool that lets Windows Phone 7 users load applications that aren't in the Marketplace have pulled the tool, less than a week after publishing it.

They're doing so after being contacted by Microsoft on Wednesday.

"Through this discussion, we established a mutual understanding of our intent to enable homebrew opportunities and to open the Windows Phone 7 platform for broader access to developers and users," the developers wrote in a blog post.

The developers have decided to pull the tool and pursue their goal with Microsoft's support, they said. Microsoft has said that it doesn't recommend that people use the tool.

"We are excited to explore the opportunity to become more involved with the shaping of the platform and to build a feedback channel for developers around the world," the developers wrote.

Rafael Rivera, Chris Walsh and Long Zheng published the ChevronWP7 tool on Nov. 25. People who downloaded it were able to transfer applications to their WP7 phones that are not published in the Marketplace.

The call from Microsoft came a day after the developers published their first application -- a custom ringtone manager -- that users of the ChevronWP7 tool could download.

Regular WP7 phone users are not permitted to load applications that aren't approved in the Marketplace on their phones. The three developers released the tool to let developers or regular users load experimental applications or apps that can't be published in the Marketplace, including those that access private or native APIs (application programming interfaces). For instance, corporate users who build custom apps for workers cannot load those apps onto the phone unless they are willing to make them publicly available in the Marketplace.

Judging from comments left after the blog posts, developers, particularly those living in countries that are not yet approved to register as WP7 developers, are most interested in the ChevronWP7 tool. One commenter from Lithuania and another from Czech Republic expressed their regret at the loss of the tool.

Rivera said he didn't get the sense that Microsoft was focused on letting people load applications outside of the Marketplace, implying that the buzz around the ChevronWP7 tool may have shown Microsoft there is a demand for the capability.

Still, one expert said he suspects Microsoft eventually would have enabled the capability. "I would think that the evolution of WP7 would be similar to iOS," said Tim Weingarten, CEO with Visage Mobile, a company that offers software for managing smartphones. Apple initially similarly didn't let people download applications from outside the App Store, but with iOS 4, released in the middle of this year, that changed. "I would expect a similar evolution [with WP7] from highly limited, highly secure to ensure the most control, then slightly loosen the strings of control as they build additional flexibility."

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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