Windows RT Potentially Capable of Running Homebrew Desktop Apps

If you are looking to install an application on the desktop in Windows RT, good luck with that. Windows RT is locked down and doesn’t allow this kind of thing, even if someone was to port the code over so certain applications could technically work with ARM devices.

The good news is that you are a step closer to running desktop apps with Windows RT, thanks to a new “jailbreaking” method that is highlighted in the Surfsec blog.

According to the blog, they are able to run unsigned desktop applications in RT using a Windows vulnerability that allowed them to open up RT.

The idea is that there is technically nothing stopping Windows ARM-optimized apps from being made, and it is purely a Microsoft marketing move to keep it locked down. In the Surfsec blog’s own words:

Windows RT is a clean port of Windows 8. They are the same thing and MSFT enforces Code Integrity to artificially separate these platforms. It does not stop pirates from modifying store apps (and their license checks) because store apps are the only things that can actually run unsigned. The fact that this method works on Windows 8 as well shows how similar the systems are. You can even enforce Code Integrity on Windows 8 to see what Windows RT feels like!

The decision to ban traditional desktop applications was not a technical one, but a bad marketing decision. Windows RT needs the Win32 ecosystem to strengthen its position as a productivity tool. There are enough “consumption” tablets already.

So with this exploit in place, does that mean we might start to see indie porting efforts that bring desktop apps over to Windows RT? While possible, Microsoft could also work to patch any vulnerabilities that currently exist to allow such a jailbreak.

If there is a significant interest in Windows RT in the future, you can pretty much bet that a home-brewing desktop community will arise though. As seen in the Android and iOS world, hackers can make mobile operating systems do just about anything if they have the ambition to make it happen.

Would you be more interested in the Windows RT platform if it was opened up through a jailbreaking effort like this? Conversely, do you think that Microsoft should have allowed ARM desktop apps from the beginning or do you think locking out the desktop was a good move?

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