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Legal Sideloading Scenario for Windows Phone 7

12/8/2010 10:05:31 AM

Disclaimer: By no means I pretend to have all the knowledge needed to make this work and all the challenges Microsoft is facing in this area. This is just my stream of consciousness on the subject.

What’s the biggest worry for Microsoft on the subject off people sideloading apps? The answer to this question is hard to guess wrong. They don’t want alternative marketplaces to appear and compete with the official marketplace undercutting developer earnings, trust, etc. and in turn Microsoft’s earnings and market share.

I’d leave piracy alone since it’s not something you can fight without punishing legitimate users along the way. The phones will be hacked anyway and pirates will do their thing. I don’t have any doubts about it.

On the other hand there are lots of people who would love to be able to load apps to the phone for pretty legitimate reasons like:

  • hobbyist making apps for themselves and friends
  • people who can’t become official WP7 developers (there are more than 30 countries in the world, you know)
  • companies making apps for internal use

I don’t think any of the above mentioned usages constitutes any danger to the official marketplace. So, basically, the goal is to make 3rd party marketplace apps either impossible or, more likely, too complicated for normal people to use.

So, what if people could load XAPs via Zune and these XAPs would be signed on the fly and only signed apps could run on the phone? This way it’s pretty easy for regular folks to sideload their apps, impossible for on-the-phone 3rd party marketplaces to exist and too complicated for web/PC 3rd party marketplaces to gain any mainstream traction.

It sounds too simple for me to be true, so I’m probably missing something. What do I miss?

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