The first big roadblock to Windows Phone 7 modding has been found. According to Conflipper, a former Windows Mobile hacker, Windows Phone 7 devices ship with a “Genuine Software” checker which gives you the screen below if you try to access Xbox Live, Marketplace, Windows Live, or Zune from a device running an OS version that doesn’t match up with your hardware key.
Although there have been reports of people porting over WP7 to the HTC HD2 and some chatter of people being able to make ROMs (though not load them), there may yet be one final hurdle that could be very difficult to overcome: PVK.
Microsoft is giving us a reality check by beefing up the security measures on their Windows Phone 7 OS. Rumor has it that Microsoft is using privacy keys (PVK) to tie the OS to its intended hardware.
PVK are the private keys Microsoft evidently uses to sign off on the OS that is also tied to the hardware. Specifically, some aspect of the OS looks for and then pulls these keys from the device motherboard for verification. If the keys cannot be found, the motherboard must be replaced or serviced. While elements of the phone/OS might still work without the PVK key, core elements such as Xbox, Marketplace, Windows Live or Zune…basically any “cloud service” will not. This will be a serious deterrent to developers building custom ROMs for their WP7 devices.
Before you get too mad, know that Microsoft doesn’t build these privacy keys to hamper your customization. They are primarily meant to prevent piracy. Then again, in typical Microsoft fashion, they are probably happy to tighten the reins on their products.
The challenge to developers/hackers would be to circumvent this security, much like folks have managed to get around Microsoft’s Genuine Software checker for Windows 7 and Office products. No easy task, we imagine.
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