When Windows RT was first announced, it was believed it would essentially be identical to Windows 8 with one exception– it was designed for ARM processors. Beyond that, everything you could do with Windows 8, you could do with Windows RT.
Sometime during Windows 8 development news started to leak out claiming that Microsoft would lock out the desktop altogether with Windows RT, making it a pure “Start UI” experience.
As we all know, this is pretty much what happened. Sure, the desktop is there. Its use is limited, however, to Microsoft desktop applications and other utilities, control panel options, etc.
You have to wonder though– what’s stopping hombrewers from making their own Windows RT desktop applications or porting over existing x86 applications over to ARM? In a word, Windows RT requires that all applications are specially signed by Microsoft.
The bad news here is that Microsoft is refusing to let anyone put out signed applications for the desktop.
That said, there is no technical limitation to Windows RT. In fact, the Surfsec blog now highlights a method that they used to “jailbreak” Windows RT so it could run unsigned code.
What does a Jailbreak for Windows RT mean?
Very little at this point. The big idea here was to prove that Windows RT could in fact run full-fledged desktop apps with ease. It is worth noting though that you can’t just install existing x86 applications in RT, they have to be recompiled first.
This is why Microsoft blocked the desktop applications in the first place. They believed it would create further confusion for consumers who would think they could buy a Windows legacy application and run it like normal.
With the new jailbreaking method, it is possible homebrewing efforts might eventually rise up to port some games and other desktop apps for RT users– but that leaves another question: was there a better way for Microsoft to handle the Windows RT desktop?
Business Potential for Windows RT Desktop
Based on my understanding, Microsoft’s reason for locking the desktop was two-fold:
1) They didn’t want to create extra confusion.
2) They wanted to push Metro/Start forward. The desktop for x86 NEEDED to maintain the old legacy support or they would have had even more negative backlash. BUT if they want to eventually phase out the desktop– limiting it in RT from the beginning is a good way to do it.
That said, having a limited “Desktop Certification Program” wouldn’t have been a bad idea. Microsoft could have sold or licensed the signed code to businesses so they could make their own full-fledged desktop applications.
Enterprise customers would likely have been willing to pay for such special software or authorization, similarly to what’s involved make a custom Windows Store app for a business.
Oh well, what is done is done. More than likely, Microsoft won’t change their minds. Still, a jailbreaking effort could be useful for businesses as long as it is proven legal.
For example, consumers and businesses can jailbreak iOS devices legally as long as the jailbreak isn’t used to steal software from Apple’s AppStore, etc.
If Windows RT eventually is proven fully legal, what’s to stop businesses from converting their in-house Windows legacy applications over to Windows RT’s desktop? What do you think, could businesses benefit from an easy and legal way to convert and run Windows desktop apps in RT?