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Microsoft has ordered the removal of ROM images from popular Windows Mobile development site XDA-Developers.

The site is aimed at developers wanting to get more out of devices from HTC; the largest manufacturer of Windows Mobile devices, and offers forums, information, documentation and advice, as well as the various ROM images needed to reprogram handsets.

The ROM images include the different versions available for each handset, as well as variants for different network operators or resellers. The versions might have different features enabled, or bugs fixed: some network operators and resellers do post updated ROMs of their own variants, but they aren't always quick to do so, and some choose not to do so at all.

Users downloading the ROMs from XDA-Developers were warned that they came without warranty at the user's risk, but in general the site was careful not to post anything too unstable, and lengthy discussion forums provided advice for anyone having problems upgrading.

But none of this was legal, of course. Microsoft owns Windows Mobile, and has absolute rights over its distribution. A license to use the OS is included in the price of a handset, but that license no more allows the user to take a copy of the ROM and upload it to XDA-Developers than buying a DVD permits one to upload the film contained to YouTube.

Microsoft has, in the past, complained to XDA-Developers about pre-release or unstable ROMs appearing on its site, and these have always been quickly removed, but this order is something new. Microsoft claims that customers are demanding support from their network operators for unsupported ROMs downloaded from the site - it's hard to believe this happens often, but it does shift the blame nicely away from Microsoft.

More likely, this is about Windows Mobile 6. This new version will be available as an upgrade, for a price, so Microsoft will want to pre-empt any pirated ROM images of its new OS turning up. By insisting on the removal of all ROM images of any Windows Mobile version, Microsoft will make it easier to spot, and take action against, pirated versions of WM6. ®

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