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Windows 8 Update: Jailbreaking of Surface RT expands

Jan 22, 20134 mins
Cellular NetworksComputersComputers and Peripherals

It’s more than a week now since a website posted a tool for jailbreaking Windows RT devices, and now it is also posting a list of applications that will run on the broken devices.

The site, xda-developers, lists a set of desktop apps reported to work on jailbroken Windows RT tablets. The jailbreak tool is here.

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The important thing about these apps is that they are traditional Windows desktop apps, not the Modern apps (a.k.a. Windows Store apps) that are designed specifically to run on Windows 8 and that cater to the operating system’s touch-centricity.

One of the specs for Windows RT is that the operating system doesn’t support desktop apps at all except for the specially crafted Microsoft Office that comes standard with the tablets. Customers are restricted from porting any applications to the devices except those that are sold through the Windows Store.

Some of the applications that will run on the broken devices need no modification; some do, according to the xda-developers discussion thread. Some of those that run unmodified are Keepass Portable (a password storage wallet); MonoTorrent (BitTorrent client); and ShareX (a screen capture and upload utility).

For its part, Microsoft says it’s actively investigating the break tool and will take whatever action it deems appropriate.

Start Menu really is missed

Since Windows 8 was first released to developers the overriding complaint has been that Microsoft got rid of the Start Menu, and now there’s good evidence this is a widespread sentiment people are doing something about.

Pokki, which makes software that reinstates the Start Menu, says 1.5 million copies of its Pokki Menu have been downloaded. Microsoft claims that it has sold 60 million copies of Windows 8, but that number is probably inflated because Windows 8 purchases may actually be for Windows 8 licenses supporting a Windows 7 install. That means at the very least there’s enough Pokki Menus out there for 2.5% of the Windows 8 installed base.

Pokki Menu isn’t the only Start Menu restorer on the market, so there are more customers who have reclaimed the Start Menu using other means.

And consider there are other customers who’d like the Start Menu back but haven’t sought out Pokki Menu. Perhaps it’s time for Microsoft to make the Start Menu an option in some future Windows 8 upgrade.

Windows 8 Padfone?

Asus already makes a Padfone based on Android and according to an interview with The Wall Street Journal is considering one based on Windows 8.

A Padfone is a smartphone with a 4.7-inch screen that snaps into the back of a larger screen to become a tablet.

It’s unclear from the story whether Asus is interested in basing a Windows 8 Padfone on Windows Phone 8 with some tweaking or on Windows RT or on full Windows 8 with phone capabilities added.

Microsoft has moved Windows 8 applications to Windows Runtime so they can readily be ported to Windows Phone 8, so blending devices in addition to blending operating system programming architectures makes sense.

The tablet that the phone snaps into might even be something like the Surface RT, which has a removable keyboard so the tablet can be used like a notebook as well.

None of this can be done without Microsoft’s blessing, so we’ll just have to wait and see what they say to Asus’ proposal. Here’s what Asus’ Benson Lin, corporate vice president of mobile-communication products, told the Journal: “With our Padfone concept, the phone plus tablet, I think it makes sense for Windows 8. There is no target timeline … but we are interested in making Windows phones.”

Meg’s onboard

HP’s CEO Meg Whitman stands behind Windows 8 despite its early failure to turn around the slumping PC industry, something it’s not really fair to expect a new operating system to do, but which nevertheless many seem to have expected.

Whitman says HP will stick with Windows 8 doggedly and perhaps with blind faith.

“Listen, Windows 8 did not appear to grow the market,” Whitman said in an interview with SFGate. “But we are in early days, and the magnitude of the user-interface change and features were substantial. We have to stick with this. I am a believer. We are going to continue to invest in this platform. Whenever you do something of this magnitude in this kind of environment, you have to stick with it.”

Tim Greene covers Microsoft for Network World and writes theA Mostly MicrosoftA blog. Reach him atA tgreene@nww.comA and follow him on TwitterA @Tim_Greene.

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