Hello everyone, and welcome to another week full of fun news in the Microsoft world. In this edition, we visit a 0-day exploit in Internet Explorer that was quickly patched, Windows XP not being completely dead, Skype conference calling, Office for Ipad print support, as well as some Microsoft financial news.
All of this after the jump:
As I’m sure we all heard, there was a new active exploit for ALL versions of Internet Explorer. Since this exploit affects every version of IE from 6 to 11, that means that this is the first major vulnerability that affects the now-defunct Windows XP. The vulnerability could be exploited simply by visiting a website, making it easy to exploit without the usual having to “click yes to run this application/download this toolbar” nonesense. For a while, there were countermeasures, such as using Microsoft’s EMET tool, disabling Adobe Flash, and turning on Enhanced Security Configuration in IE, but there is now a patch available.
As this exploit as fairly serious, Microsoft released an out of band update to address the issue soon after. This update patches all versions of IE, including (drum roll) the Windows XP version. So much for a dead OS, but I feel that they made the right choice. Some sites would argue that Microsoft should have not patched Windows XP as a move to get more people to finally abandon the decade old operating system, however, I feel that since many corporations (see last week’s entry) are paying Microsoft millions of dollars to continue XP support for some time as they migrate, as well as the severity of the issue, compounded by how soon after the XP sunset this occurred, it is indeed worth fixing. Now, I don’t agree that they should do the same for future vulnerabilities, but if it is “easy” to patch (due to it being the same bug in all versions), and as severe as people make it out to be, it was the right call.
This week, Microsoft also made Skype conference calls available to everyone for the low low price of free. Previously, Microsoft had only allowed video conference calls on the Skype for Business platform, but now, in order to compete with the various other free video/chat services, and to further encourage face-to-face collaboration/conversation, it is now free for all Skype and Xbox One users.
Privacy is an issue near and dear to all our hearts, but now, it seems that Microsoft must hand over a customer’s emails to the US authorities, even though that customer is in Ireland, and has their emails on a server in Dublin. I give Microsoft props for challenging this request in court in the first place, and I think that the US authorities are overstepping their bounds. I hope this is not a slippery slope into more forced giving up of data to governments (who are we kidding, this already happens whether we know it or not).
IOS tablets are now finally getting a printing feature, as long as they use Microsoft’s Office suite. One of the big downsides to having a tablet is that it was difficult to use it as a desktop replacement for some things; printing being one of them. Sure, Google Cloud Print was available for certain applications and printer models, but now, Microsoft has added the hotly requested feature to its suite of IOS products utilizing Apple’s AirPrint protocol.
We know that Bill Gates, Microsoft’s former CEO and MS founder has always been a very philanthropic person, but this week, Microsoft as a company has stepped up its game and donated $1 billion to help schools purchase PCs from companies such as Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Panasonic, and Toshiba by lowering the price of the OS on those systems. While not a monetary donation, per se, this should still help schools be able to better afford PCs that they might have otherwise cut out of their budgets.
When Microsoft is not giving away money, they are sometimes losing money. In this case, the Surface line continues to be a loss leader for Microsoft, with the company losing cash on each system it sells. On one hand, it’s kind of like the Kindle, where Amazon will take a slight loss on the device in order to make back the money on the content it sells, Microsoft’s strategy seems to be lacking in the “content” area to fill the tablet with. Hopefully, as the Surfaces become cheaper to build, and all the kinks are worked out, and sales increase, the line will transition into a nice profit line for the company. The tablets are great, now they just need to sell and make money before they are abandoned.
In other news…the new Star Wars cast has been revealed. I’m giddy.