The enthusiast developers at ChevronWP7 have released their inexpensive Windows Phone unlocking tool, ChevronWP7 Labs. This tool provides users with a way to inexpensively "developer unlock" their device, providing them with two key capabilities.

These are:

Inexpensively run self-created apps on a physical device. Normally, budding developers would need to pay for Microsoft's expensive ($99 per year) developer program, App Hub for Windows Phone 7, to run self-made apps on a physical device. (Enthusiast developers can run self-made apps for free in an emulator.) But ChevronWP7 Labs provides the same developer unlock capability for just $9. Not $9 per year; $9. So this is a very inexpensive way to run homebrew, self-made apps on physical devices. And if you decide to "go pro" later, you can do so after having had fully-developed your app, not before.

Run homebrew apps. With a normal, retail Windows Phone handset, you can only run apps that Microsoft provides through the Windows Phone Marketplace. However, if you developer unlock your phone, using ChevronWP7 Labs or via Microsoft's expensive developer program, you can also run homebrew apps that were made by others. A few weeks back, I highlighted one such app, Screen Capture v3, in my article, Windows Phone 7.5: How to Take Screenshots.

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One thing that ChevronWP7 Labs doesn't do, and this has been miscommunicated via many blog posts over the past few days, is jailbreak a Windows Phone.

"Jailbreaking is typically done to give you unfettered root access to the device," says ChevronWP7's Rafael Rivera, who is also (full disclosure) my Windows Secrets co-author. "We don't do that. We enable developers to write code for the device without sacrificing the IP protection that Microsoft has put in place. It's a win-win for everyone."

I used ChevronWP7 Labs to developer unlock my own Samsung Focus to install Screen Capture v3, and I've been happily using it ever since. To find out more about this tool, please read the introductory blog post, ChevronWP7 Labs Availability, or check out the ChevronWP7 Labs web site.