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The Register's spies at a Microsoft "Smartphone Application Security" chat earlier this week give us the impression that the company might just have been caught a little flat-footed by the development/application signing issue. Because the answers to 'when' and 'how' currently seem to be, um, soon, but er, it'll be great.

"How will valuable freeware apps [for Smartphone platforms] be addressed as the authors will not likely go through the signing process?", asked one hopeful. And here's the answer from Mark Spain, Director Mobile Device Developer Program:

"A large and empowered end user and software developer community is essential to the health of the computing ecosystem. As the worlds of telephony and software converge on next generation devices like Smartphone, we'll undoubtedly see the traditions in each of these industries evolve somewhat. Having said that, Mobile Operators ultimately define security requirements [to?] align with their market focus."

Clear? Not really, but isn't it frightening that these people can apparently do this sort of stuff off the cuff? While we wait for evolution to take its course we can probably assume the freeware issue isn't going to be addressed at all, and that if the heat gets too much Microsoft is ready and waiting to blame the networks and their "security requirements."

Well OK, so if you've got to get your apps signed in order to develop, what about the price ("stay tuned for a special announcement"), and how do you apply for a Mobile 2 Market certificate or an Orange signature? "The only timeframe for the availability of either of these," says our spy, "was 'soon', which was offered at least four times."

Other gems included:

"We have invested a lot of effort in providing a very productive development environment and Smartphone is no exception in terms of platform capabilities, tools, etc. Once we help developers with the application signing process, we hope you agree that this is an exciting platform to target.

"We understand the enthusiasm of the WW developer community and will have exciting news soon to address this requirement!"

Program manager for mobile devices Nick Hofmeister meanwhile addressed the question of why Microsoft didn't use a two tier security system, where unsigned apps are unable to access the radio stack, thus:

"For SPV, there is a two tier security model. Privileged and Unprivileged. Orange, in line with their security requirements, requires that both Privileged and Unprivileged apps be signed."

Which is actually an interesting nugget. But overall, our observer comments that Microsoft appears to be getting its developer supporters from the shallow end of the Marketing pool.

The entire transcript is to be available "soon" at here, but at time of posting it isn't. ®

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