Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft’


Patch Tuesday: 16 security advisories, 5 critical for Windows

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All supported versions of Windows are affected including Windows 10 technical preview

Microsoft is issuing the largest number of monthly security advisories since June 2011, five of them critical and affecting all supported versions of Windows. And applying the patches will be time consuming, experts say.

“Next week will tell us how many CVEs are involved but suffice to say, this patch load will be a big impact to the enterprise,” says Russ Ernst, the director of product management for Lumension.

Generally, Microsoft alternates between patching Windows and updating applications in order to keep down the number of machines that need attention each month, says Chris Goettl, a product manager with Shavlik. This batch includes critical updates for .NET Framework, Office 2007, Exchange and SharePoint.

“Exchange and SharePoint being in the mix means that there will be a need for some thorough testing before rolling out updates,” he says. “.NET Framework also is getting an update this month, which usually means a little longer time on the maintenance window as those patches tend to take a little longer than the average OS patch to install.”

Also in the mix this month is Windows 10, formally Windows Technical Preview, which is in line for five updates ranked critical, says Goettl. “It would be a good idea to run this and see how well the patches apply. The updates will be available through Windows Update and Microsoft is encouraging people to apply them,” he says.

The five critical bulletins are about fixes to block potential remote code execution on victimized machines, says Qualys CTO Wolfgang Kandek. Here is his summary of these bulletins:

Bulletin 1 is rated critical for all version of Windows and has RCE potential, i.e. the type of vulnerability that allows an attacker to take control over the affected machine.
Bulletin 2, critical as well and covers all versions of Internet Explorer IIE from IE6 on Windows 2003 to IE11 on Windows 8.1.
Bulletin 3 addresses an RCE type vulnerability present in all version of Windows and is critical to patch as soon as possible.
Bulletin 4 covers a vulnerability that is rated critical on desktop systems and important on server operating systems.
Bulletin 5 is rated critical on server operating systems but has no criticality rating on desktop systems, even though they seem to contain the vulnerability. “We will have to see what is really going on there next Tuesday,” he says.

The advanced security bulletins include nine that are ranked important, which means they require user action in order to be exploited. They address vulnerabilities in Windows, Windows Server, Exchange, and .NET Framework. Possible exploits include elevation of privilege, remote code execution, security feature bypass and information disclosure.

The remaining bulleting is ranked moderate and could result in denial of service attacks against Windows.

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Microsoft to focus on search apps with Bing

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Director of search says he’s focused on integrating search into Microsoft products, services

Microsoft’s director of search admitted that its Bing search engine can’t compete with Google search in a full-on faceoff, but the company will focus instead on search applications.

Stefan Weitz, who leads Microsoft’s search efforts, told an audience at the Web Summit conference in Dublin on Tuesday that he’s less interested in Bing as a stand-alone search engine and more interested in integrating the technology into the company’s other products.

“The question is, where is search really going?” Weitz said, according to a report in The Register. “It’s unlikely we’re going to take share in [the pure search] space, but in machine learning, natural language search… and how we can make search more part of living. For us, it’s less about, though that’s still important. It’s really about how we can instead weave the tech into things you’re already doing.”

By integrating search into different applications, Microsoft should be able to grab more search market share in the future, Weitz said, according to The Register.

“For pure keyword search, we’re around 30% in the U.S. — not so much in Europe,” he said. “But search in different areas of life? That mix is to be determined. I’m committed to making sure we have our fair share of search in the future.”

Brad Shimmin, an analyst with Current Analysis, told Computerworld that Microsoft would be smart to focus less on a head-to-head competition with Google search and more on working Bing-based technology into Windows products.

“At the end of the day that isn’t a battle that can be fought right now,” Shimmin said. “It’s a matter of how inured we are with Google. It’s now become the, ‘Pass me a Coke or hand me a Kleenex.’ Our cultural norm has evolved around Google. It’s not just a search engine. It’s a knowledge engine that helps you find your way home or what time the Dodgers play.”

Five years after Microsoft released Bing, the search engine has not been the challenger to Google that Microsoft hoped it would be. While Bing hasn’t gained significant market share in those five years, it still remains second in search only to Google.

Earlier this year, Internet tracker comScore Inc. reported that Google still held 67.5% of the search market, while Bing had 18.6% and Yahoo, 10.1%.

A big part of the problem is that the name Google has become synonymous with search, and users have created a habit of using Google when they want to search for anything on the web.

Dave Schubmehl, an analyst with IDC, agreed that Bing has little chance of taking any significant amount of Google’s search market share.

“Google is pretty ingrained for most people on Web search, especially with the combination of Chrome and Android fueling initial queries to Google,” he said. “I really don’t think Bing has any way to overcome this advantage for standard search.”

That means Microsoft is more likely to find success with Bing if it’s worked into mobile applications and Microsoft’s enterprise-focused software.

Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group, noted that Cortana, an intelligent personal assistant on Windows Phone, is a search app.

“If you can add intelligence to the front end and your artificial intelligence is smart, you might be able to render traditional Google search redundant,” he added.

Microsoft already is working its search technology into some of its apps and services.

“Microsoft should invest in Bing as a means of differentiating its applications, predominantly Office and the Windows platform,” said Shimmin. “They literally are using technology built into Bing. They launched software called Microsoft Azure Machine Learning, and it uses tech from both Bing and Xbox to allow companies to take a data set and make predictions.”

If an Office 365 user needs to find something in the application, he could use built-in Bing to do it.

“They should focus on what has always made Microsoft important, and that is they are the interface for business users and many consumers,” Shimmin said. “If you open an Office document, shouldn’t search play in how you work with that document and shouldn’t it be Bing? Microsoft can make their platform and their apps more valuable through the power of search.”

Schubmehl said there is a lot of potential for search growth but it won’t be in the ways that search companies like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, have become accustomed.

As people use the Web less on their mobile devices, they’ll use mobile apps, such as Yelp, UrbanSpoon and Facebook, more.

“I believe Microsoft is looking to expand the landscape around search applications to include capabilities that work at both a personal and enterprise level, both for the Web and the emerging discovery opportunities around mobile data and applications,” said Schubmehl.

Instead of appearing to be the loser in the race with Google, Microsoft needs to reposition the battle and focus on reinforcing the real value of Bing to the company.

“They should rethink the battle they’re in because it’s not one they can win or should try to win,” said Shimmin. “I just don’t think they can out Google Google.”

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Microsoft rolls out Delve information and people discovery tool for Office 365

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Microsoft has begun a months-long rollout of Delve, the first Office 365 application that taps into the suite’s Office Graph machine learning capabilities and maps connections between co-workers, documents and information.

Delve, announced in March with the code-name Oslo, is designed to automatically surface colleagues, files and data that are more relevant and important to users’ work.

Delve renders these connections via a very visual card-based interface, and bases its output on an analysis of a number of signals and elements from each individual user, such as Exchange Online email message exchanges, OneDrive for Business stored content, SharePoint Online collaboration activity and Yammer enterprise social networking interactions.
MORE ON NETWORK WORLD: 7 things on Microsoft’s 2014 to-do list

In the coming months, Delve will also be able to take into account email attachments, OneNote content and Lync Online IM and audio/video communications. The goal is to make work processes more intuitive to engage with and easier to navigate by highlighting for employees the data and connections they should prioritize. At least in theory, that should help employees focus on their most important tasks, colleagues and documents.

Microsoft plans to release more applications like Delve that leverage the Office Graph machine learning features and make Office 365 better at “understanding” each employee’s work process and customizing the user experience accordingly.

Delve is available to customers subscribing to Office 365 Enterprise E1, E3 and E4 plans; Education A2, A3 and A4 plans; and Government G1, G3 and G4 plans. Microsoft will roll it out first to subscribers of these plans that have signed up to get Office 365 upgrades ahead of everyone else, the so-called First Release option, and later to those in the Standard Release schedule. The company expects to finish this phase of the rollout by early 2015, Microsoft said on Monday.

In January 2015, Microsoft will begin to roll out Delve to subscribers to Office 365 Business Essentials, Business Premium, Small Business, Small Business Premium and Midsize Business.

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Microsoft debuts personalized patch dashboard for IT pros

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Web-based myBulletins organizes security updates; gets a ‘C’ grade from one professional

Microsoft today launched a Web-based security dashboard for IT professionals that displays a customized view of the company’s past patches.

Called “myBulletins,” the dashboard shows the security updates for user-selected products, including the permutations of Windows, the iterations of Office and the various versions of its server-side software.

myBulletins displays a small graph that tallies the updates by Microsoft’s threat ranking system.

“[myBulletins is] a customizable online service that offers IT professionals a personalized list of the Microsoft security bulletins that matter most to their organization,” Tracey Pretorius, a director in the company’s Trustworthy Computing group, explained in a Wednesday blog.

The dashboard draws on the list of security bulletins — the latter is Microsoft’s term for its updates — that Microsoft has long published on its website. In some ways, it replaces that list’s search and filtering functions.

To use myBulletins, customers must log in with a Microsoft account, then step through a short wizard to select the product lines, a process that includes drilling down to specific products, like Office 2010, Windows 8.1, or SQL Server 2012.

Bulletins can be sorted by identifier, product, impact, severity and whether a reboot is required. The information can also be downloaded in Excel format for further manipulation.

One security professional was less than impressed.

“If their intent was to create a single customized dashboard of Microsoft security issues affecting my organization, then I’d have to give Microsoft a ‘C’ grade on this round,” said Andrew Storms, director of DevOps at San Francisco-based CloudPassage.

Storms dinged myBulletins for not providing notifications of new bulletins that met his criteria, for not offering direct links to the associated knowledge base articles Microsoft publishes on its support site, and for not including security advisories that outline vulnerabilities that have not yet been patched.

“They can’t send me a notification? I have to go and log in to this?” Storms asked. “I suspect they went for the minimum viable product here, but sadly for me, they are missing the two most important features: notifications and advisories.”

Most IT personnel have access to similar lists already, Storms noted, through WSUS (Windows Server Update Services), the Microsoft patch management tool that’s widely used in businesses. WSUS also shows those updates that have been applied to the organization, something myBulletins is incapable of duplicating, as it doesn’t actually scan a PC or group of PCs.

“If I just wanted to see all the security patches affecting my enterprise, then WSUS already provides that,” Storms said. “Maybe version 1.5 or later [myBulletins] might become more useful.”

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Why the Surface Pro 3 just killed Windows RT

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Say good-bye to Windows RT. The introduction of the Surface Pro 3 just killed it, if not sooner, then later. Here’s why the operating system has not future.

With the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft has finally clarified its tablet strategy: Build productivity tablets that do double-duty as ultrabooks, and charge a premium for them. Aim them at the enterprise market, where Microsoft still has a stranglehold. Microsoft will be happy to pick up whatever mass-market consumers it can, but with the Surface Pro 3, that’s no longer its primary market.

There’s plenty of evidence for this. First is that Microsoft introduced a full-sized, powerful, expensive tablet/ultrabook combo rather than a low-priced Surface Mini as had been expected. In the mass market, smaller, less-expensive tablets are driving growth, not full-sized tablets. A most Gartner report on tablet sales for 2013 report concluded:

“The tablet growth in 2013 was fueled by the low-end smaller screen tablet market, and first time buyers.”

The Surface Pro 3 is anything but a low-end device, with a starting price of $799. Add a Surface Pro Type Cover and that cost goes up to $929. That’s not going to attract bargain hunters or first-time buyers. However, it won’t scare away enterprises who run their businesses on Microsoft software, including many legacy systems. It’s a reasonable price for an ultrabook that does double-duty as a tablet, particularly because it includes a very useful stylus.

Carolina Milanesi, chief of research at Kantar WorldPanel Comtech, told Computerworld that the Surface Pro 3 is clearly aimed at the corporate market, as a replacement for aging PCs:

“The enterprise is where they fit. And maybe it’s best to think about [the Surface Pro 3] as where the next replacement cycle for PCs will go, and how something like it gives companies an upgrade path for their [current] laptops and PCs.”

Even before the Surface Pro 3 introduction, some businesses were doing that with earlier Surface Pros, which are more expensive and have much smaller screens than the Surface Pro 3. In an email to Gregg Keizer of Computerworld, Fidel Deforte, the infrastructure and communications technology manager for the city of Cape Coral, said that he had started replacing some senior managers’ hardware with Surface Pros. Those managers had been typically using both a Windows notebook and an iPad. He wrote:

“I replaced [a manager’s] HP laptop and iPad (total value $2,600) with the Surface Pro 2 ($1,300) and she not only loves this, but sees that it is more flexible and efficient.”

With a 12-inch screen and a much-improved keyboard, The Surface Pro 3 is even more of a replacement for traditional computers, and should sell even better.

So where does that leave the Windows RT-based Surface line? Nowhere. By not releasing a Windows RT-based Surface 3, Microsoft made it plain where its future is in tablets — with businesses, not the mass market. Corporations won’t buy RT-based tablets because they can’t run desktop-based legacy apps. Consumers haven’t bought them because they simply don’t like them.

So whether it’s now or later, Microsoft will kill Windows RT. It simply doesn’t fit into the company’s new tablet strategy.

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If Microsoft gives away Windows Phone 8, will anyone take it?

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In a bid to increase licensees and gain some badly needed market share, Redmond won’t charge for its phone OS anymore.

Rumors and speculation have swirled on this for months, but now it’s official: Microsoft is giving away Windows Phone for free, at least to a pair of Indian handset makers. If this can drive sales, it might become a worldwide policy, which could be the game-changer Microsoft needs and wants.

The Times of India first reported that Microsoft has waived Windows Phone licensing fees for Lava and Karbonn. Actually, the deal was somewhat telegraphed; last week, Karbonn announced that it was going to ship a dual-boot Android and Windows Phone device in June, and rumors of the deal were floating around at last month’s Mobile World Congress.

The Times of India says Microsoft has been negotiating with Indian manufacturers since last year, and that the two manufacturers only agreed to make Windows phones when Microsoft waived the licensing fees.

“Free Windows Phone is part of a strategic partnership. For both Microsoft and us, it is an experiment. Windows Phone still doesn’t have lot of appeal in the market but now that it doesn’t have any license fee, it becomes easier for us to experiment with it,” one unidentified executive told the Times.

If that sounds less than enthusiastic, you have to remember both Lava and Karbonn are already Google Android licensees and the phones that will run WP8 won’t exactly be on the same level as the Lumia 928 or 1520. These will be cheap, low-end phones for India’s mass market. It’s a huge market – over one billion people.

So this can’t really be viewed as a bellwether for the U.S. or other mature markets. No offense to Lava and Karbonn, but they won’t be selling the equivalent to a Galaxy S5 to the kind of buyers Samsung and Apple cater to in the West.

It makes for a good experiment to see if the low-end market can drive demand and increase interest in Windows Phone. After all, IDC puts its market share at just 3.9%.

One thing about a product: if it’s good, you can sell it for a high price. If it’s bad, you can’t give it away. I personally like Windows Phone and I’m only using an iPhone because I felt the Nokia hardware was inferior, with terrible battery life. If that rumored HTC One running WP8 or a Galaxy model running WP8 ever emerge, I’m there.

So let’s see if Microsoft can give away it’s phone OS. It’s not like the company hasn’t given away products before to grab market share. True, it’s never given away an OS, but right now it’s not really selling it, either.

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Free tools for Windows Server admins

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Free tools for Windows Server admins

There are endless software tools and utilities out there to help you in managing your network. Here are some of the best free ones. They can help you with deploying, maintaining, troubleshooting, and upgrading Window Servers, your domain, and aid with other miscellaneous network tasks.

Best Practices Analyzer
Microsoft provides the Best Practices Analyzer tool right inside Windows Server, starting with Windows Server 2008 R2, available on each role’s home page in the Server Manager console. It scans and analyzes key settings of the server roles and reports compliance of them compared to the best practices standards. This can help you identify potential issues that may affect security and performance.

It scans for a variety of rules, including those relating to predeployment, security, performance, and configuration. Statuses shown in the results include compliant, noncompliant, and warning. (Watch the slideshow version of this story.)

Core Configurator
Starting with Windows Server 2008, there’s a Server Core installation option. It’s great if you want a minimal installation, but it only gives you the Command Prompt for the interface. However, there are tools that give you a GUI on the Core editions of Windows Server. You can setup and configure most features via the GUI rather than being forced to use text commands.

Core Configurator 2.0 supports Windows Server 2008 R2 x64 and Corefig is for Windows Server 2012 Core and Hyper-V Server 2012.

Exchange Server Deployment Assistant
Microsoft offers the Exchange Server Deployment Assistant, an online tool that asks you deployment related questions and then generates a custom step-by-step checklist to use during an Exchange install or upgrade.

It asks questions about your current configuration, desired deployment environment (on-premise, cloud, or hybrid), migration questions, and desired features/functionality. In the end you’re presented with a wizard type of checklist, which is saved so you can return later and can be printed out as well.

Role-based Access Control (RBAC) Manager
By default, you must use PowerShell commands to manage the new role-based access controls of Exchange, which debuted in Exchange 2010 and eliminates the use of access control lists (ACL). However, the Role-based Access Control (RBAC) Manager provides a GUI to edit these role-based access controls, which gives you the ability to easily add/remove cmdlets and edit cmdlet properties and assignments.

The RBAC Manager supports Exchange 2010 SP2, Exchange 2013 Preview and Office 365.

Exchange Reports
Exchange Reports provides you with insight on your Exchange server and environment, supporting Exchange 2010 and Exchange 2013. It helps keeps you up-to-date with the server status, changes, and stats. It provides a group report and details on individual groups, mailbox report and details on individual mailboxes, an environment report, and it supports message tracking.

The program doesn’t require any installation, but requires .Net 4.0, Powershell 2.0, and Remote Powershell access to the Exchange Server. You can save reports and also export them to Excel.

Active Directory Explorer
Active Directory Explorer is an Active Directory viewer and editor, which you can use to browse the Active Directory database. You can view object properties and attributes, modify permissions, and view an object’s schema.

It supports saving off-line snapshots, creating favorite locations, and saving advanced searches. You can also compare two Active Directory snapshots to see what objects, attributes and security permissions changed between them.

Remote Desktop Manager
The Remote Desktop Manager provides a single platform for centralized access to many types of remote connections and remote services, along with the ability to save their passwords and login credentials. It can save you the time and hassle in managing and utilizing all the different types of remote access methods.

It can manage remote connections via Microsoft Remote Desktop (RDP, RemoteFX), Microsoft Windows Azure (RDP), Microsoft Hyper-V (RDP), Microsoft Remote Assistance, VNC (RealVNC / TightVNC / UltraVNC / built-in), Citrix (ICA / HDX / Web), Web (HTTP / HTTPS), LogMeIn (Free / Pro), TeamViewer, and PC Anywhere. It also supports management of FTP, FTPS and SFTP (Windows Explorer / Filezilla / WinSCP / built-in) and Telnet, SSH, RAW and rLogin (Putty / Kitty / built-in).

They offer a premium edition with a free 30-day trial but they also provide a completely free edition with limited functionality.

Microsoft Remote Connectivity Analyzer
Microsoft provides the Remote Connectivity Analyzer, which can help you test and troubleshoot the connectivity of Exchange servers, Outlook, Lync, OCS, Office 365, and email (POP, IMAP, and STMP). It’s mostly an online tool, a website where you can input server addresses and login credentials in order to run the connectivity tests. It also provides a message header analyzer.

On the website you can also download the Microsoft Connectivity Analyzer Tool to run local tests to identify common connectivity issues for Outlook, Lync, and Office 365. And you can download the Microsoft Lync Connectivity Analyzer Tool to locally analyze a Lync deployment to see if it meets the requirements to support connections from Lync Windows Store app for Windows 8 and Windows RT, and from Lync mobile apps.

As a network administrator you’re likely connecting to different networks or often changing your network settings. NetSetMan can help manage these different settings. You can save and switch between different profiles, which enable you to easily change your IP, DNS, and many more network-related settings.

In the profiles you can specify the Computer Name, Workgroup/Domain, and MAC Address. You can set a Proxy, SMTP Server, Browser Home Page, Default Printer, and Network Drives. You can also configure Hosts File Entries, Route Table, Scripts (BAT, VS, JS, etc), and other System Settings.


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Did Microsoft reach into your PC to stomp a botnet?

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Report claims the company turned off botnet software on user’s PCs. Is that their right?

Microsoft took down yet another botnet, but its method for doing so many not sit well with a lot of people, as the company removed software from their computers without their knowledge.

In October 2013, Microsoft targeted a Tor-based botnet malware called “Sefnit,” which used the Tor network to anonymously perform click fraud. It was a fairly sizable network, with 3 million users per day, which hijacked user computers to click on ads that would make the Sefnit users money via a commission.

For those of you who don’t know, Tor, the abbreviated name for The Onion Router, is free software designed to protect online anonymity. Tor directs Internet traffic through a free, worldwide volunteer network designed to hide a user’s location or usage from anyone conducting network surveillance or traffic analysis. While it’s popular with hactivists and people genuinely concerned about privacy, it’s also a haven for illegal activity, such as the Silk Road drug dealing website.

Microsoft went after the Tor software because it found some popular apps like Browser Protector and FileScout were bundled with a vulnerable version of Tor Browser & Sefnit components. It found infected PCs had v0.2.3.25 of Tor Browser, which did not self-update.

On October 27, 2013, Microsoft modified the antivirus signature database used by all of its security products to remove the Sefnit-added Tor client service from user PCs. The update was pushed through in the November Patch Tuesday update.

Microsoft estimates it got about 2 million copies of the malware, and there are another 2 million PCs to reach. A spokesperson for the company issued a statement that said “Microsoft Malware Protection Center (MMPC) has protections to remove the services started by the Sefnit malware, but it does not uninstall Tor, remove any Tor binaries, or prevent users from using Tor.”

Now, I’ve busted out the pompoms for Microsoft’s antivirus efforts in the past, and no way will I make an exception. But I have to say that in the case of Sefnit, this looks like a lose-lose situation. They can’t leave it out there, but customers are bound to be unnerved by Microsoft removing a third-party product from their system, even if it is malicious.

Microsoft has already faced privacy issues around Kinect and Skype. This won’t help. They are doing the right thing, but it won’t help their image. I think this may call for more than just a blog post on their part.

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Windows 8 cobranding with Android may backfire for Microsoft

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All business in the front and party in the back, this category is the mullet of mobile devices.

At CES, dual-boot devices running Windows 8.1 and Android revealed a conflicted situation for Microsoft. In the struggle to make Windows 8 relevant in mobile, the OS has been cobranded with Android on these devices.

Microsoft’s OEMs missed the point. Relevancy is measured in terms of digital life, the amount of time mobile users spend engaged with a mobile internet ecosystem. According to Chetan Sharma’s research, Microsoft ranks seventh in importance. In a similar unpublished interactive survey of 300 industry insiders at the Open Mobile Summit in San Francisco, Google led the digital life market, with Apple in second place, while Microsoft finished in the back of the pack.

With dual-boot tablets and notebooks, Microsoft is willfully sacrificing valuable digital life for Windows 8. As Richard Windsor of Radio Free Mobile reported from CES:

“The idea is that the user uses Windows 8.1 when he or she is working and Android when at leisure. This is a crazy proposition as the whole point of Windows 8 is to make an environment that is optimized for both use cases, and it’s telling that the OEMs feel the need to add something else.”

Splitting productivity time using a keyboard with Windows 8 and then rebooting for leisure time via gestures with Android just compounds the problem, because it stagnates users’ curiosity to search for new Windows 8 apps. This reduces some much-needed traffic to the Windows app store, which, compared to Android and iOS, is currently a ghost town.

Dual-boot teaches a user to boot Windows 8 for compatibility with Microsoft’s old ecosystem and to boot Android to use the new mobile ecosystem. This points to a glaring problem. If Microsoft is to fix this, Windows 8 users need a reason to spend their entire digital life in the Windows 8 ecosystem; when the user toggles from desktop to mobile they have to think –there’s an app for that – and download a Windows app.

Once upon a time, Windows users helped one another make Windows applications work. Given the dominance of earlier Windows versions, Microsoft had an army of users to help other users make Windows work. Mobile has completely changed user behavior. Mobile users download an app, give it a few seconds to satisfy the need that influenced them to download it, and if the app fails, they uninstall it and try the next app in the category. According to NetMarketshare, Microsoft retains 91% of the desktop market share, but Windows 8 only accounts for 10% of that. So a user’s chance of solving a Windows 8 problem through the help of another user who understands Windows 8 is only one in 10. According to Windsor:

“The Metro [the old name for the Windows 8 UI] user experience is perfectly capable of offering a good experience for Digital Life.”
If Microsoft is to become relevant in mobile, it needs to convince users of the value of this UI without the army of helpers it once had. Cobranding with Android doesn’t help, it hurts. Dual boot and virtualization isn’t a solution any longer in the consumer mobile market because app developers motivated by a good business model in target devices will port their apps. Dual boot emphasizes the limited number of apps available for Windows 8, and proves that Microsoft has not convinced users that it’s a good OS to begin with.

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Balky browsers tick off tablet owners

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Crashes are the top complaint from iPad Air, Fire HDX owners, No. 2 annoyance on iPad Mini, says Fixya

Browser problems are the most common complaints of iPad Air and Fire HDX tablet owners, an online community of troubleshooters said Friday.

San Mateo, Calif.-based Fixya mined 10,000 user-generated reports related to Apple’s iPad Air and Retina-equipped iPad Mini, Amazon’s Fire HDX and Microsoft’s Surface 2, the second-generation tablet that replaced the poorly-received Surface RT of 2012, to come up with its conclusions.

Browser gripes topped the charts of the iPad Air and the 8.9-in. Fire HDX, said Fixya, while the surfing app tied for second on the iPad Mini’s top-five-beef list.

Nearly a third — 30% — of the reported problems with the Air and 25% of those with the Fire stemmed from the tablets’ bundled browsers, Safari and Silk, respectively. On the Retina iPad Mini, 20% of complaints targeted Safari, the same percentage as aimed ire at the paucity of storage space on the least expensive model.

“A relatively common issue with mobile Apple devices, especially those using Safari — the browser that comes pre-packaged with the device — is a crashing browser,” said Fixya. “Users report that opening certain Web pages (most likely those that use [Adobe’s] Flash [Player]) and opening multiple tabs on the browser can cause the browser to crash and kicks users onto the home [screen].”

Famously, Apple has never supported Flash Player on iOS, the mobile operating system that drives the iPad. Before his death, co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs was adamant about banning Flash, going as far as to publicly trash the media software in a 2010 diatribe.

But Safari on iOS is not supposed to crash when it encounters a website that calls on the Adobe software.

Fire HDX owners pummeled Silk with similar laments. “Silk … has a variety of issues, most notably choppy performance and tendency to crash,” Fixya noted.

Only the Surface 2 escaped owners’ disgust with their device’s mobile browser. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) is bundled with Windows RT 8.1, the OS that powers the tablet.

Instead, Microsoft customers tapped a shortage of quality apps as their No. 1 complaint, with 25% of the reports focused on the issue. Users’ gripes matched those of analysts who have cited the app issue as the platform’s weakest link since long before Microsoft started selling Windows 8.

Fixya recommended that iPad and Fire HDX owners regularly clear their browser’s history and delete cookies to keep Safari or Silk as stable as possible. But it had no answer for the Surface 2’s app problem. “App support is an issue with the device that … users can’t fix on their own,” Fixya pointed out.

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