Long-time Windows specialists Rafael Rivera, Chris Walsh, and Long Zheng, who together make up ChevronWP7, released the first Windows Phone 7 jailbreak tool a few months ago, were asked by Microsoft to take their tool offline and come join the company in Redmond to discuss how to best address the homebrew issue.
This talk took place last week, and it appears to have been a productive and fun get-together. Microsoft showed they were good sports by giving them some fun t-shirts ('I was the first to jailbreak Windows Phone 7, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.'), but of course, that wasn't the most important aspect of the talks. Much of the information from the talks is under NDA, but the ChevronWP7 team did get to share that going forward, they're going to work together with Microsoft to bring a permanent solution for homebrew development to Windows Phone 7.
"To address our goals of homebrew support on Windows Phone 7, we discussed why we think it's important, the groups of people it affects, its direct and indirect benefits and how to manage any risks," they explained, "With that in mind, we will work with Microsoft towards long-term solutions that support mutual goals of broadening access to the platform while protecting intellectual property and ensuring platform security."
This seems like a good approach to me. It would be great if Sony, Apple, Microsoft, and several Android phone makers would implement a simple development switch in their phones - these would obviously void the warranty, but it would give hackers the opportunity to actually own their devices without fear of having to jailbreak all over again whenever an update arrives.
It seems like Microsoft is serious about this. Geohot, famed iPhone and Playstation 3 hacker and jailbreaker, said on his website he'd move his attention towards Windows Phone 7. Not long after, Microsoft's head of Developer Experience for Windows Phone 7, tweeted that Microsoft would simply give geohot a Windows Phone 7 devices for free - "let dev creativity flourish".
This isn't particularly surprising, by the way, to anyone who ever spent any serious amount of time in the Windows Mobile community of yore. Microsoft pretty much looked away and silently approved the modding community there. Several websites were openly dedicated to spreading modified Windows Mobile ROMs, and Microsoft was okay with it.