One small step for native code; one big leap for Windows Phone 7 jailbreak

Just weeks after the launch of Windows Phone 7 around the world, the inevitable attempts to jailbreak the operating system is yielding some interesting results. Today, Australian developer Chris Walsh was successfully able to prove a method to run “native” unmanaged code on a retail Windows Phone 7 device.

The pieces started falling into place when user “hounsell” on xda-developers.com noticed the a third-party application in the WP7 marketplace (Network Profile by Samsung) used “native” code, not Silverlight-managed code as all non-Microsoft apps should.

Upon closer inspection, he documented some interesting characteristics of the application that gave it its native capabilities – most notably a DLL called “Microsoft.Phone.InteropServices”, which if poked the right way provided COM access.

Building upon this, Chris was able to successfully code and deploy a valid WP7 application using the developer sideloading process to a Windows Phone 7 device that inherited the ability to run unmanaged code.

Even though this breakthrough pretty much provides root access to the core of the Windows CE-based system including registry and file system necessary for future jailbroken applications, the last and major piece of the jailbreaking puzzle remains – sideloading an application on a common non-developer device, since such an app would never make it through marketplace certification.

Fortunately, you can bet the geniuses at xda-developers will figure something out.

Update: If anyone’s wondering why jailbreaking is important, it’ll be beneficial to indie developers who want to push beyond the limitations of the Silverlight framework and SDK – including but not limited to access to the microphone and camera. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could override the Bing search button?

152 insightful thoughts

  1. Why would I want to replace the Bing search button when Bing is so deeply integrated with the rest of the OS anyways? I’ve been using Bing for a year or so now and it works just fine.

    1. I have to agree! I think jailbreaking a WP7 device will result in more problems than it’s worth (like Xbox LIVE bans).

      This should encourage Microsoft to open up the WP7 platform a little more.

      1. I don’t know… as an I.T. systems administrator… I would LOATHE the call stating so-and-so’s windows phone just got a virus. imagine the possibilities. now they don’t just have your computer infected, but now the phone. and they’re using it at late hours to make free phone calls at your expense. i’d rather deal with not having full access to a WP device, as much as that makes me twitch in weird places.

  2. Interesting : I’ve always been very much in favour of jailbreaking devices like the iPhone. But now that I’m a Windows Phone 7 developer, it doesn’t attract me that much anymore…

    1. Me too, quite honestly. The only reason I have any interest in “jailbreaking” (for want of a better phrase) is to do with understanding – The decisions Microsoft make, and how they implement them is of far greater interest than side-loading applications for me.

    2. Me, I don’t need pirating apps. I need to be able to have a Cyrillic keyboard and a way to pay for apps from a non-supported market. You’ll get more money this way. That all the things I need are locked in the same way as applications are protected is a shame really, but it wasn’t my choice.

      Either way the OS will be jailbroken, there’s no doubt about it.

      1. “You’ll get more money this way.”

        We’ll have some actual facts instead of my guesses fairly soon, but my thought is that if WinPhone7 takes off AT ALL, it will be due to support from Enterprise IT building its custom apps in an environment that’s friendly because they are MS-centric in their organizations. Then they’ll spec these for employees, who’ll accede to the requests because MS has built in sufficient facebook, games and entertainment in addition to the Industrial Strength Windows Support ®.

        These are not the customers for Cyrillic keyboards in the US and there are far fewer of them outside of the US. They are DOUBLY not the customers for anything that looks like warez; IT would have a hissy fit.

        Another option is that the phone totally bombs, in which case you won’t make any money at all.

        Finally, the whole US could decide that the WinPhone7 is a refreshing new take on mobile phones. Despite the MS reputation for things not working right until V3. Despite the (only!) consumer features of XBox and Zune having tiny, if passionate customer bases. Despite the not-yet-there app libraries.

        If this were 2007, WP7 would be a “wow” phone and people would flock to it. Against Android 2.2/2.3/3.0 and iPhone 4/5, it’s a bit behind. What are the features that’ll bring Microsoft’s share up from 3%?

      2. @Walt French:
        No chance Enterprise IT is deciding the fate of WP7, if only because of the huge inertia of this part of the market.

        Obviously a Cyrillic keyboard doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things, but the opportunity to add many more missing localizations would allow to sell millions more devices (the way it happened with the iPhone when the whole world was using the “exclusive” AT&T gear).

  3. So many HD2 users would like the option of using the system that there is a push for this to happen now. Plus a lot of people feel the way Thomas Hounsell does and have a desire to learn why and how Microsoft is pulling this off. WP7 is so fluid and vivid that I suspect it will inspire a lot of growth in the whole ppc market.

  4. This is certainly important to me!

    I’ve had my old vogue device for ages because the successor was the diamond which provided about 4 hours of battery life with BT and push email enabled. I skipped the TP2 because I wanted the imagio/whitestone and Sprint didn’t carry it. So I’ve been continuously upgrading my old phone through the efforts of people at XDA who have continued to resussitate my old phone. The Sprint junkware versions of the OS are typically 6 months to a year behind the ones XDA offers, are slower and have annoying limitations such as inefficient use of memory and stores I have no use for.

    I’ll probably switch to Verizon as Sprint is stiffing their long term customers and making them get the everything plans just to get new equipment. I’m hoping by March I’ll be able to choose between Gingerbread, WP7 and iOS5 on Verizon. Jailbreaking WP7 will make it more attractive than it would be if it hadn’t been cracked.

  5. I don’t doubt that WP7 will be jailbroken, but so far, judging by the xda thread, what’s been achieved is much more modest. Loading native dlls with a dev certificate doesn’t seem to require any privilege escalation hacks if I’m not mistaken.

  6. There is already other group working on jailbreaking WP7 and more specifically sideloading apps. It is just a matter of time. I would say it should be done and about before the year ends.

  7. Great. :) Kudos for the developers to reading the official and free ebook about Windows Phone 7 development. Not that the way how this can be achieved is mentioned there and on various places in the internet. ;) Actually these interop services are implemented in all .NET frameworks as far as I know.

    Andreas Balzer
    Microsoft Student Partner

  8. As for the question: “Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could override the Bing search button?”

    Absolutely not. Have you seen the Google Search app? It’s simply horrible.

    1. @Mark,
      I had the exact same thought. A total user experience disaster. They made that quick without spending a single second to integrate it within the new application paradigm.
      The Bing search app, in comparison, is a natural blend, well thought and perfectly integrated.
      But, to their credits (Google), it retains their minimalistic approach to searches: results oriented.

    2. have you tried playing games on the samsung omnia ? often have i lost progress because of this button I would gladl have it be assigned to do something else even IE->Google or just an opton to just disable and enable it on demand,

      FYI im a user who likes to tinker with my devices to get things working the Way that I want them to.

  9. This is not a jailbreak per se, this is just a HowTo build a Trojan on WM7.

    There is this poll that should be run here: Who’s thinking of developing on WM7/Silverlight?

    My vote: no way.

    1. And, remind us who will care about your vote?
      Millions developer work on Windows OS, Windows Phone. Nobody care if you won’t develop in WP7/Silverlight,

  10. it will happen soon enough. Someone always breaks the iphones in a day or 2. Makes you think the companies would want to hire the people who crack their code in a few hours.

  11. Have you tried playing games on the samsung omnia ? often have i lost progress because of this button I would gladl have it be assigned to do something else even IE->Google or just an opton to just disable and enable it on demand.

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