Windows Phone 7 just like iOS, restricts users to its official app store. So if you want to install an app on your shiny Windows Phone, the only option you have is to goto the Marketplace. If you wanted to side-load an app, just like Android, Symbian or Harmattan, you need a developer account and a AppHub registration which costs 99$ and comes with the ability to publish apps to the marketplace.
So ChevronWP7 in association with Microsoft started offering 9$ unlocks for Windows Phone so that hobbyist developers could install, run, and debug unsigned applications on their personal Windows Phone. The reason Microsoft agreed to such an arrangement in the first place was because it wanted to encourage hobbyist and homebrew developer communities. But things didn’t go quite that way, and most people only ‘unlocked’ their device to side-load apps for personal use.
In their goodbye post, the folks behind ChevronWP7 go on to say:
The goal of this experiment was two-fold: First, to determine if we could supercharge the Windows Phone beginner/hobbyist community by removing the initial cost barrier (i.e. App Hub membership.) And second, to convert potential developers into published developers.
While we kicked butt on the former, the latter didn’t work out so well. Our data indicates that most developers simply unlocked their devices for non-developmental reasons and never went all the way to publish an app in the marketplace. There was also some confusion about the actual purpose of the ChevronWP7 service – some folks thought we provided SIM-unlock capabilities, while others thought we were a hacker group providing full root access. On top of this, there were a larger than expected number of support emails.
As a result, both sides amicably agreed to discontinue the ChevronWP7 Labs experiment.
Fear not, we will continue to explore other ideas with Microsoft. All sides are still very interested in the hobbyist and homebrew developer communities.
Infact as a goodwill gesture Microsoft is offering existing ChevronWP7 customers a free upgrade to a one-year membership of Windows Phone App Hub which otherwise costs 99$.
While this comes as a disappointment for a lot of people who were looking to mod their Windows Phones, it wasn’t as if ChevronWP7 was actively selling unlock tokens. Infact after the initial 10,000 unlocks that sold out super quick, the service had been in abeyance. Hopefully with Windows Phone 8, Microsoft will open the platform a little more and the people’s burning desire to mod their devices will be quenched a little.