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Worries over Droid X Anti-Modding Measures May Be Overstated

The original story I posted yesterday did indicate that the eFuse chip used in the Droid X may be used in other Motorola handsets. That claim is looking increasingly credible. I saw a tweet well after writing up the story that may tempers concerns over the ability of new Droid X owners to express their ownership.

This breaking news may not be as dire as many are claiming, as a google search of OMAP3 and e-fuse reveals that current OMAP handsets already have e-fuse in place as part of the M-Shield hardware security technology built into TI’s OMAP system on a chip. It is on the very hackable DROID and the not-so-hacking-friendly Milestone, but it is not being used by Motorola to lock the bootloader of the handset. The current theory being put forth by the non-alarmists in the Android hacking community suggests that the DROID X is locked in a similar manner to the Milestone. Though it may be difficult to crack, and may lead to many hairs being pulled out, mucking with the bootloader probably won’t brick your phone. As the DROID X lands into the hands of the Android hacking community in the upcoming days, we should know a lot more about the state of rooting and flashing on Verizon’s flagship Android handset. Be calm. Stay tuned. It’s just a phone.

This doesn’t change speculation about Motorola’s stance towards modders. Bradley Kuhn, of the Software Freedom Law Center, has a telling post on his blog.

We [Motorola] understand there is a community of developers interested in … Android system development … For these developers, we highly recommend obtaining either a Google ADP1 developer phone or a Nexus One … At this time, Motorola Android-based handsets are intended for use by consumers.

As Bradley notes, at least they admit their policy up front. However, I reject the content on its face that a end user focused device must preclude hackability by modders or simply owners with a bent for tinkering. There is undoubtedly a different motivation at work, having to do with support costs and hassles. I’ll reserve any credit for Motorola until they cop to the real reasons they use anti-modding measures: not user convenience but their bottom line.

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The Command Line by Thomas Gideon
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