Windows RT Jailbroken, What Does That Potentially Mean?

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?

Source: Neowin

Please Leave Your Comments Below...

  • Steve Steiner

    A desktop certification program might have limited this, but another concern would be battery life. The Surface is designed pretty well to use as little as possible of the battery. If user got it and favored whatever desktop apps they could find for it over metro ones, having things running in a way where they could continue to drain the battery without getting suspended when they are unneeded there would be ramifications. One app, two, may not be so much of a hit on the device, but taken a little further, let’s think about how many apps some users run at once. Some users I know are running i7’s and things still crawl because they don’t practice the close it when you don’t need it principle. The hit the battery would take from this would be noticeable, and blamed on MS. Don’t get me wrong, put some good jail-broken apps out there and I’ll be all over it, but I understand the decision.

  • http://seventy8Productions.com/ Steve Steiner

    A desktop certification program might have limited this, but another concern would be battery life. The Surface is designed pretty well to use as little as possible of the battery. If user got it and favored whatever desktop apps they could find for it over metro ones, having things running in a way where they could continue to drain the battery without getting suspended when they are unneeded there would be ramifications. One app, two, may not be so much of a hit on the device, but taken a little further, let’s think about how many apps some users run at once. Some users I know are running i7’s and things still crawl because they don’t practice the close it when you don’t need it principle. The hit the battery would take from this would be noticeable, and blamed on MS. Don’t get me wrong, put some good jail-broken apps out there and I’ll be all over it, but I understand the decision.

    • Andrew_Grush

      Great points, Steve.

      I can understand Microsoft’s logic for locking it down as well– even if I don’t 100% agree with it.

      I just hope they don’t purposely patch things up and at least allow home-brewers to have their way with it if they so choose.