Developer yanks unauthorized Windows Phone 7 update tool

Officially, Microsoft remains mum, but one of its German employees warns that future updates may be blocked

Just hours after launching a tool that let Windows Phone 7 owners grab smartphone updates directly from Microsoft, the developer yanked the utility from his Web site.

The tool, called " ChevronWP7.Updater," applied all available Windows Phone 7 updates, including the "NoDo" update that adds copy and paste functionality and the February update designed to prepare smartphones for NoDo.

Windows Phone 7 updates have been riddled with problems. Users have bashed Microsoft and its mobile carrier partners for the sluggish update roll-out, and experts have criticized the company for not anticipating that the delays would infuriate early adopters and loyal fans.

Last week, a Microsoft executive apologized for the fiasco and acknowledged that customers were right to be angry. "We didn't set out to let you down. But it's clear we did," said Eric Hautala, the general manager of Windows Phone 7's customer experience engineering team, in a March 30 blog entry.

Walsh's tool, which he created over a five-day span and released on Monday, allows users to sidestep the carriers and retrieve updates directly from Microsoft.

But later that day, Walsh removed the tool's download link from his blog.

"The tool is now down for the time being," said Walsh in an email reply to questions late Monday. "Will follow with some more information."

Walsh did not immediately reply to additional questions Wednesday.

Microsoft has also been mum. The company has not responded to questions posed Tuesday about whether it asked Walsh to yank ChevronWP7.Updater, and if so, why.

Clues, however, have appeared on a Facebook page maintained by Microsoft's German team. There, Frank Prengel, a Microsoft technical evangelist for Windows Phone 7, warned that users who run Walsh's tool might not be able to retrieve future updates from their carriers.

"Be careful when using unofficial hacker tools," Prengel said, according to a translation of his original message in German. "They can put the phone in an undefined state [making] the installation of future updates impossible. Use at your own risk -- neither Microsoft nor the device manufacturer or network operator assume liability for the consequences."

Users who have run Walsh's tool gave mixed reports on their experiences with later updates from their carriers.

"I also ran the update [tool] on Monday, but today Zune told me an update is available," said someone identified as "Vincent" in one of the 430 comments on Walsh's blog. "Just ran it, and everything looks good to me."

Others reported problems.

"I have just noticed that my HTC HD7 has started acting strangely one day after the update," said Ben Chege Ngumi. "It has detected an update; and any attempt to run it gives a Zune update error code that [says] 'There isn't enough space on hard drive C, so free up at least 250MB of disk space and try again,' both [on] the smartphone and the PC."

Microsoft has usually taken a dim view of unofficial updates. On Monday, the company said only that it was aware of Walsh's tool and was "in contact with him regarding his intent and any potential implications."

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

Read more about mobile oses in Computerworld's Mobile OSes Topic Center.

Tags Mobile Apps and ServicesapplicationstelecommunicationMicrosoftMobile OSesPhonessmartphonesMobile operating systemssoftwaremobileconsumer electronics

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)

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