Microsoft cracks down on WP7 homebrew updates

A Windows Phone homebrew coder has axed a utility that attempted to install unreleased updates to WP7 devices.

“The tool successfully passed my own tests involving multiple update scenarios,” Chris Walsh confirmed in a blog post.

“I was later informed by Microsoft that there were several problems with my tool and the manner in which it changes phones. Despite the fact that all outward signs indicate the phone has been updated to build 7390, Microsoft tells me otherwise.”

According to Walsh, Redmond insisted an undocumented API was “incorrectly” deployed to deliver updates.

“Most problematic, MS tells me updating in this manner will place devices in a ‘non-serviceable state,’ [claiming] devices updated in this manner ‘may’ no longer receive updates.

“Because the tool is, in Microsoft’s words, ‘breaking phones,’ I have taken it offline at their request.”

Unsurprisingly, Microsoft has also issued a warning about installing homebrew updates on its official Windows Phone Blog

“I’ve noticed that some of you are turning to homebrew solutions to update your phone immediately. As an engineer and a gadget lover, I totally understand the impulse to tinker. You want the latest technology and you’re tired of waiting. Believe me, I get it,” wrote Microsoft rep Eric Hautala.

“But my strong advice is: wait. If you attempt one of these workarounds, we can’t say for sure what might happen to your phone because we haven’t fully tested these homebrew techniques. You might not be getting the important device-specific software we would typically deliver in the official update. Or your phone might get misconfigured and not receive future updates.”

Hautala also warned that homebrew updates could even cause some phones to stop working.

“Bottom line: unsupported workarounds put you in uncharted territory that may void your phone warranty. 

”We’ve made a lot of progress in recent weeks, so I urge you to please be patient for just a bit longer and wait for your official update notification to arrive,” he added.

My take on Microsoft’s attitude towards homebrew update installers? Redmond is totally justified – at least for now – in adopting a cautionary approach. 

Think about it. 

The Windows Phone 7 platform is relatively nascent and rapidly evolving, especially with Nokia on board to help push the OS forward.

As such, Microsoft is completely within its rights to express concern over unauthorized, third-party software which could potentially interfere with future updates.

That being said, Microsoft shouldn’t forget: talented modders and hackers can be leveraged to help push a platform forward.

So, yes, I do think Microsoft remains on track, despite its opposition to the (first) ChevronWP7 jailbreak and the above-mentioned homebrew updater.

Remember, Microsoft recently offered famed PS3 hacker GeoHot a free Windows Phone 7 device, vowing to let “dev creativity flourish.”

And let’s not forget Redmond’s recent embrace of the Kinect hacker community. Clearly, Microsoft is far (and I mean far) from perfect, but at least the corporation is light-years ahead of Apple when it comes to understanding the advatanges of modding and jailbreaking.