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25 years of Microsoft Office roadkill

25 years of Microsoft Office roadkill
Love it or hate it, Microsoft Office has torn up the competition, leaving all manner of software carrion in its wake

25 years of Microsoft Office roadkill
25 years ago, Bill Gates announced that Microsoft would smash together its three application programs — Word, Excel, and PowerPoint — offering them in a cohesive bundle known as Microsoft Office for Windows. When Office 1.0 arrived in 1990, the apps had very little in common and worked together only under duress.

The second version of Office (enigmatically known as Microsoft Office 3.0, comprised of Word 2, Excel 4, PowerPoint 3, and Mail 3) started carving out a new software category, defining by example the term “office productivity.”

By hook, by crook, FUD, and ruthless pursuit of market share, Office turned into the aging juggernaut you see today. This is our tribute to the many competitors that have fallen prey to the productivity Goliath.

Word processors: Early DOS word processors
Electric Pencil — Born: 1976; died: ca 1983, cause of death: neglect
EasyWriter — Born on the Apple II: 1979; ported to DOS: 1981; died of bugs
Volkswriter — Born: 1982, in response to EasyWriter’s bugs; died: ca 1989

Here’s to all of the pioneering commercial word processors, including Homeword, PFS:Write, Bank Street Writer, XyWrite, DisplayWrite, PC-Write, many more. They all flourished then fizzled. All were crushed by the time Office hit the stands.

Electric Pencil came first; its history as told in InfoWorld’s May 10, 1982 edition: “The original idea for the first word processor came eventually to Michael Shrayer … [who] had never worked in the computer field.” Shrayer grew bored keeping up with the word-processing Joneses, and Electric Pencil withered away.

Word processors: WordStar
Born: 1979; not quite dead yet

Of all the clobbered word processing programs from the DOS era, this one still has a measureable pulse.

WordStar’s primary claim to fame: It gets out of the way. No fonts. Control keys move the cursor. Couldn’t spellcheck its way out of a paper bag. As for formatting? That’s something you hire somebody else to do, right?

In 1984, MicroPro, the company that made WordStar, grossed $70 million, which made it arguably the largest software company in the world. By 1988, it was toast, but holdouts remain. George R.R. “What is dead may never die” Martin acknowledges that he uses WordStar 4.0.

WordStar for Windows, a rewrite of the word processor known as Legacy, never got off the ground.

Word processors: MultiMate
Born as WordMate: 1982; sold to Ashton-Tate: 1985; died when A-T was sold to Borland: 1991

Legend has it that the original MultiMate user manual was written by an old Wang pro, then programmers used the manual as the spec for WordMate.

Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance, a big Wang shop, bought PCs to replace the Wangs and hired W.H. Jones and company to build the software to support the move. The original group of five programmers kept the rights to the software, formed their own company, and the rest was history.

What, the keys on the IBM PC didn’t match those on the Wang? No problem. MultiMate shipped with stickers for the wayward keys, plus a big plastic template to tie it all together.

Word processors: WordPerfect for DOS
Born on Data General: 1979; ported to DOS: 1982; still on life support

In 1979, Brigham Young University contracted a group of programmers to build a word processor for its Data General minicomputer. The programmers formed a company, Satellite Software International, and started selling SSI*WP for a mere $5,500 a pop.

WordPerfect 2.20, the first DOS version, appeared in 1982. By 1986, WordPerfect 4.2 was by far the best-selling word processor. With LAN support (1988), pull-down menus (1989), WYSIWYG mode, reveal codes, styles, diverse printer support, and macro language, WordPerfect ruled the roost.

Then Windows hit, WordPerfect didn’t jump soon enough, and Word for Windows ate its lunch.

WordPerfect for DOS Updated continues under the caring eye of über-guru Ed Mendelson.

Word processors: WordPerfect for Windows

Born: 1991; stable release 5.2: 1992; became WordPerfect Office Suite

WordPerfect for Windows existed as a standalone product for a short time, ultimately becoming the backbone for various WordPerfect Suites (more later).

InfoWorld’s inimitable Ed Foster presided over a lengthy discussion of WordPerfect’s demise in his December 28, 2007, article “How did WordPerfect go wrong?”:

“WordPerfect was late with its first Windows version, and then the bundling of Word with Microsoft Office on many PCs resulted in WordPerfect’s sale — first to Novell, then Corel in 1996 — aimed at producing a competitive office suite. While retaining popularity in some markets, particularly legal circles, WordPerfect now generally gets little attention as a Word competitor.”

Word processors: Word for DOS and Mac

Born on Xenix: 1983; ported to DOS shortly thereafter, and Mac: 1985; last DOS version: 1993

Microsoft cannibalizes itself, too.

Programmer’s programmer Charles Simonyi started building Multi-Tool Word for Xenix in 1981, bringing in Richard Brodie to work on the p-code compiler that became key to Microsoft’s development of applications for more than a decade.

Microsoft distributed free copies of the renamed Microsoft Word in the November 1983 issue of PC World. You can download Word 5.5 for DOS, free.

Remarkably, Word for DOS was designed to be used with a mouse.
Word for Mac outsold Word for DOS between 1985 and 1989, when Word for Windows rolled over both.

Spreadsheets: VisiCalc
Born on the Apple II: 1979; ported to DOS: 1981; died: 1983, eaten by 1-2-3

VisiCalc was long dead before Office was a gleam in Charles Simonyi’s eye, but many of the VisiCalc constructs lived on, both in Excel and in other products that fell to the Microsoft juggernaut.

It’s hard to overstate how important VisiCalc was to the emergence of the computer industry. Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston first released it on the Apple II back in 1979. Porting it to DOS was a mean feat, but VisiCalc for DOS shipped with the first IBM PCs in 1981. When Lotus 1-2-3 arrived in 1983, VisiCalc bit the dust. Lotus bought VisiCalc in 1985 and put the company out of its misery.

Spreadsheets: Lotus 1-2-3
Born: 1983; bought by IBM: 1995; died: somewhere in between

At one time the highest-flying application on personal computers, Lotus 1-2-3 failed to make a convincing transition to Windows. It continued to linger in various guises for many years.

Tied to the IBM PC at the feet and ankles, 1-2-3 (1=calculations, 2=charts, 3=database, get it?) compatibility became the bellwether for PC clone manufacturers. It was that important.

Lotus 1-2-3 was absorbed into the DOS-based Lotus Symphony (more about that product later), then moved to Windows in Lotus SmartSuite. The port to Windows in 1991 was a massive kludge, and 1-2-3 faded into oblivion.

Excel beat it to a pulp.

Spreadsheets: SuperCalc
Born on the Osborn I: 1981; ported to DOS: 1982; ported to Windows: 1984; died from neglect

Adam Osborn had SuperCalc built to ship with the Osborn I “luggable” computer. Widely held to be faster, more precise, more feature-laden than VisiCalc, it never did supplant VisiCalc in the market. As Lotus 1-2-3 ran over VisiCalc in the DOS market, SuperCalc remained in second place.

Other DOS spreadsheet wannabes (TWIN, VP-Planner, Javelin) never overtook SuperCalc.

Computer Associates bought Sorcim, the SuperCalc company, in 1984 and promptly shipped CA-SuperCalc for Windows. The product, which introduced a version of pivot tables, fell far behind Excel. In the end, Computer Associates — the second software company to exceed $1 billion in annual sales, after Microsoft — let it fade away.

Spreadsheets: CalcStar
Born: 1981; faded with its companion product, WordStar, ca. 1988

While luminaries like George R.R. Martin keep WordStar alive (or at least mention the product every few years), I don’t know anybody who admits to using CalcStar.

MicroPro bundled WordStar, CalcStar, the InfoStar report generator, and a glue program called Starburst to create what many consider to be the first Office-style productivity program suite long before the advent of Windows — and long before anyone would dare call a hodgepodge of programs a “suite.”

WordStar was once the epitome of word processing software. CalcStar was well regarded by some, but it never reached the level of popularity of 1-2-3.

Spreadsheets: Microsoft Mutiplan
Microsoft Mutiplan — born for CP/M: 1982; ported to DOS: 1983, Mac: 1985; died in a complex fratricide

Originally code-named “EP” for “Electronic Paper,” Microsoft built Multiplan for CP/M (!) using p-code (see the Word for DOS slide) to compete with VisiCalc. As 1-2-3 rolled over VisiCalc in the DOS world, Microsoft kept plugging away at Multiplan for DOS. By 1986, MS had sold a million copies of Multiplan. Bill Gates said that MS made more money on Mac Multiplan than on any other platform.

As Windows started unfolding, much thought was given to porting Multiplan over to Windows. For reasons that are still unclear, MS started all over with a new product, based on Multiplan, called Excel. Multiplan died from fratricide.

Spreadsheets: Quattro
Born to Borland: 1988; run over by an Excel truck

Quattro 1.0 was codenamed “Buddha” because it was expected to assume the “Lotus” position. Quattro, of course, is Italian for 4, as in 1-2-3 … 4.

Quattro started as a DOS program aimed directly at Lotus 1-2-3. Lotus sued Borland for copying its menu structure, claiming copyright. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which split in a 4-4 decision. That split let stand a lower court, which ruled in Borland’s favor.

Quattro Pro — still for DOS — appeared in 1989, two years after Microsoft released its first version of Excel for Windows. The last DOS version shipped in 1995.

Spreadsheets: Quattro Pro for Windows
Born to Borland: 1992; sold to Novell: 1994; sold to Corel: 1996; lives on in Corel WordPerfect Office

With the Excel juggernaut rapidly rolling over Lotus 1-2-3, Quattro Pro, and even Multiplan, Borland knew it had a problem: DOS spreadsheets were rapidly being overshadowed by their Windows kin. Quattro Pro was rewritten from scratch for Windows.

Borland developed its own C++ compiler at the same time it built Quattro Pro for Windows. The two advanced — and crashed — hand-in-hand. QPW sold reasonably well when the price dropped to $49.

Novell bought both WordPerfect and Quattro Pro in 1994, hoping to meld the two and take on Microsoft Office. Corel bought them from Novell in 1996. Dreams die hard.

Presentations: Harvard Graphics
Born for DOS: 1986; ported to Windows: 1991; run over by PowerPoint

In the days of DOS, you just couldn’t beat Harvard Graphics. You could take data from Lotus 1-2-3 or Lotus Symphony, mix it with text, and come up with a vector-based presentation that looked great on a printer and only slightly weird on a screen. The company claims it was “the first presentation graphics program to include text, graphs, and charts.”

Like many DOS stalwarts, Harvard Graphics jumped to Windows too late, after PowerPoint — and especially Office — had already staked out the turf. In 2001, Serif acquired distribution rights to Harvard Graphics, and it faded away.

Presentations: Full Impact
Born for the Mac: 1988; euthanized when Borland bought Ashton-Tate: 1991

It’s hard to define “presentation” programs, but Full Impact arguably fills the bill. At least, it was marketed as a presentation program, something of a precursor to PowerPoint.

Ashton-Tate, which grew to fame and fortune on the back of PC-based dBase, paid for Full Impact’s development in exchange for marketing rights. A-T used Full Impact, a word processor known as FullWrite Professional, and dBase Mac to get a toehold in the Mac market.

Excel for Mac stomped on its toe.
A-T sold out to Borland in 1991, and Borland immediately pulled the plug on Full Impact in favor of its own Quattro Pro.

Integrated suites: Context MBA

Born on the Apple III: 1981; ported to DOS: 1982; crawled to its demise by 1985

Widely regarded as the “first integrated package,” Context MBA had modules that covered word processing, spreadsheet, charting, database, and communications. Given the Apple III’s sales record, it’s a wonder the company didn’t go under immediately, but the port to DOS (and the $695 price tag) kept Context afloat.

The Achilles’ heel? Speed. While Context MBA sported all sorts of neat features, spreadsheet re-calcs measured in minutes didn’t help. It could take longer to scroll to the bottom of a report than it would take to re-type it. Blame UCSD Pascal, and Lotus 1-2-3/SuperCalc/VisiCalc, all of which succumbed to Office.

Integrated suites: Ashton-Tate Framework
Born: 1984; sold to Borland: 1991; sold to Selections & Functions: 1994; still alive and FRED kicking

Although Context MBA may have been first — depending on how you, uh, frame such things — Framework was among the first, and by many accounts the best integrated DOS suite. It was a windowed, DOS-only, combination of a word processor, spreadsheet, database, graphics, and outlining program.

By choosing from the “Apps” menu at the top (first use of the term “apps”?), one could switch among the programs. On a DOS screen.

FRED, a high-level programming language, came baked in.

Borland nearly let it die, but Selections & Functions bought it, ported it to Windows, and continues to nurture it.

Integrated suites: Lotus Symphony for DOS
Born: 1984; cloned to the Mac as Lotus Jazz: 1985; died: ca 1992

What do you do if you have a wildly popular DOS spreadsheet, but you want to create an integrated package? Why, you just strap on a word processor, and there ya go.

Lotus Symphony (not to be confused with IBM Lotus Symphony — described later — an entirely different suite) ran in memory. All of it. Symphony included a word processor, charting program, and database program, and it stored the data for all of the programs in spreadsheet cells. Pressing Alt+F10 let you switch among the different programs’ views of the same data.

By the time IBM bought Lotus in 1995, Symphony’s fat lady had already sung. And keeled over.

Integrated suites: Lotus SmartSuite/IBM Lotus SmartSuite
Born 1994; last release: 2002; support ends September 2014

Microsoft shipped Office 1.0 in late 1990, and finally hit a stable version, 3.0, in 1992. In the intervening two years, all of the major software companies watched, and many of them decided to take on Microsoft.

Enter Lotus. Armed with Lotus 1-2-3, it bought up the other pieces: Freelance Graphics in 1986; Ami Pro in 1990; Threadz — which became Lotus Organizer — in 1992; relational database Approach in 1994. Lotus SmartSuite 2.1 (the first version) included Lotus 1-2-3 Version 4, Ami Pro 3, Freelance Graphics 2, Approach 2, and Organizer 1.1.

In the early years, Lotus SmartSuite ran neck-and-neck with Borland Office (next slide), and behind Office in many ways.

Integrated suites: Borland Office for Windows
Co-joined with WordPerfect Corp: 1993; sold to Novell: 1994; morphed into Corel WordPerfect Office Suite (see next slide)

In early 1993, Borland’s Philippe Kahn — who had a spreadsheet and database to sell — and WordPerfect’s Alan Ashton announced the companies would work together to build a great Windows suite.

By all accounts, the apps didn’t hang together, they hung separately. Borland Office for Windows never escaped the pasted-together image.

In 1994, Windows users could buy a “suite” consisting of WordPerfect 5.2, Quattro Pro 1.0, and Paradox 1.0 for Windows, for $595. Lotus SmartSuite cost $795. Office 4.3 ran $899. In spite of the significant price difference, Office outsold the others by a factor of three or more.

Integrated suites: Novell PerfectOffice
Born, er, bought: 1994; sold to Corel: 1996; litigated: 1995-2014

To make several intertwined stories short, Borland Office for Windows 2.0 was reported as sold to WordPerfect in 1994, while in fact Novell bought WordPerfect in June 1994 and, in a separate transaction in October 1994, bought Quattro Pro and the right to sell up to a million copies of Paradox from Borland.

Whatever the lineage, Novell PerfectOffice (WordPerfect, Quattro Pro, Presentations, Envoy, Groupwise, Infocentral) hit the market with a thud. Novell became embroiled in a nasty antitrust suit against Microsoft, hotly debated to this day, which Microsoft won.

Novell sold PerfectOffice to Corel in 1996, but the final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was turned down just last month.

Integrated suites: Corel WordPerfect Office Suite
Bought from Novell: 1996; currently available

No discussion of the evolution of WordPerfect would be complete without an update. While Office certainly put a dent in WordPerfect’s sales, Corel has done a very credible job of keeping the product alive and up to date. It’s a success story. Not roadkill. Not at all.

WordPerfect Office X7 — including Version 17 of the venerable word processor — appeared just last month. With Quattro Pro, Presentations (with Flash), the WordPerfect Lightning digital notebook, PDF compatibility, WinZip, and remote desktop software for the iPad, it’s still a contenduh.

Integrated suites: IBM Lotus Symphony
Born: 2007, given away: 2012

Although the name “IBM Lotus Symphony” looks a lot like the name of the DOS suite “Lotus Symphony,” in fact the two have absolutely nothing in common. Nor is it related to Lotus SmartSuite. (Both are discussed in earlier slides.) When IBM bought Lotus in 1995, it bought the rights to the Lotus names. Reuse, repurpose, recycle.

The IBM Lotus Symphony products — imaginatively entitled Documents, Presentations, and Spreadsheets — never went anywhere, victims of the Office onslaught. IBM apparently brought the products to market when IBM Lotus SmartSuite hit the skids.

IBM has donated the source code to the Apache Software Foundation, turning over development to Apache OpenOffice.

Integrated suites: Corel Home Office
Born: 2009; last rites currently being administered

You have to wonder why Corel — which has a perfectly usable WordPerfect Office Suite — would dabble in yet another suite that has “fail” written all over it.

As best I can tell, Corel negotiated with Ability Software International (based in Horley, U.K.) to private-label a version of its Ability Office suite. It’s a modest company with modest goals: To make an inexpensive Microsoft Office-compatible word processor, spreadsheet, presentation program, and a database.

Unfortunately, the renamed Corel Write, Corel Calculate, and Corel Show can handle simple Office documents but fall to pieces on anything complex.

Corel Home Office: bug. Microsoft Office: windshield.

Integrated suites: Microsoft Works

Born for DOS: 1987; dumped in favor of Office Starter Edition: 2009

Few lament the passing of Microsoft Works, but in its day, it served an important purpose: To convince Microsoft customers that they should spend real money for the real Office. In my experience, not many people took the bait.

Works went through a zillion versions (we’re talking Microsoft here). The final version, 9.0, included Word 2003 (yes, the full version of Word 2003), a spreadsheet program that created files legible to Excel (earlier versions of Works didn’t make Excel-friendly files), and a flat-file database program that produced files Office wouldn’t even try to open.

We’ll miss you, Works. Not.

Microsoft Office pushed, nudged, winked, cheated and bludgeoned its way to the top
Some of the programs that fell in its wake didn’t deserve to die. Others simply succumbed to a better way of working.
Even the old-timers — the Electric Pencils and VisiCalcs — held on for many years past their prime, only to be swept away as Windows and Office cleared out the clutter. George R.R. Martin notwithstanding, Office has raised the bar.

Now we’re in uncharted territory. Office has credible competitors on all sides, on all platforms, and all of them are out to snag some of Clippy’s billions. Could happen.

Did we miss your favorite trainwreck? More Office-fried crispy critters? Tell us in the comments.

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Microsoft plans to patch IE zero day — eventually

Attackers are probably trying to develop exploit code, the CTO of Qualys says

Microsoft said Thursday it plans eventually to patch a vulnerability in Internet Explorer 8 that it’s known about for seven months, but it didn’t say when.

A security research group within Hewlett-Packard called the Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) released details of the flaw on Wednesday after giving Microsoft months to address it. The group withholds details of vulnerabilities to prevent tipping off hackers but eventually publicizes its findings even if a flaw isn’t fixed.

Microsoft said it had not detected attacks that used the vulnerability, which is a “use-after-free” flaw, which involves the handling of CMarkup objects.

The company did not give a reason for the long delay but said in a statement that some patches take longer to engineer and that “we must test every one against a huge number of programs, applications and different configurations.”

“We continue working to address this issue and will release a security update when ready in order to help protect customers,” it said.

To exploit the flaw, an attacker would have to convince a user to visit a malicious website. If the attack were successful, a hacker would have the same rights as the victim on the computer and could run arbitrary code.

Microsoft’s next patch release, known as “Patch Tuesday,” is scheduled for June 10. It occasionally issues an emergency patch if a vulnerability is being widely used in attacks.

Wolfgang Kandek, CTO of Qualys, wrote that exploit developers are probably studying ZDI’s advisory to try to develop an attack.

“We do not know how quickly an exploit will be released, but the remaining time to Patch Tuesday is not that long,” he wrote.

The Belgian researcher who found the flaw, Peter Van Eeckhoutte, wrote on his blog on Thursday that although Microsoft has known of the bug for a long time, “I don’t believe this is an indication that Microsoft is ignoring bug reports or doesn’t care about security at all, so let’s not exaggerate things.”

“In fact, Microsoft is doing an excellent job in handling vulnerability reports, issuing patches and crediting researchers,” he wrote. “But I would be really worried if the bug was actively being exploited and left unpatched for another 180 days.”

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Surface has lost $1.2B, it was Microsoft’s money making machine

“I expect premium price points,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, in an interview last week.

He explained why by citing rivals’ business models. “Both Google and Amazon have models for their tablets where they make it up on the back end,” Moorhead said, referring to the advertising and product sales that the two rely on to offset their lower-priced tablets. “But I don’t feel like Microsoft has achieved scale in their tablet content to offset [lower prices].”

Higher prices means lower sales volume. And that’s a problem. “You have to have scale to buy cheaper components. Microsoft doesn’t have the scale to be profitable or to hit interesting price points,” Moorhead argued.

In other words, because Microsoft will be forced to stick with premium prices for the Surface, it’s unlikely to sell in enough volume to be able to strike bargains with component suppliers. If it was able to make those deals, it could either use the lower costs to turn a profit in the short-term, or more likely, immediately reduce prices, recognizing that would delay profits but expecting the losses to turn into even larger, and more sustainable, gains.

Others also expected the new Surface tablets to retain their high prices. Independent analyst Sameer Singh, for example, pegged the likely price of a “Surface Mini,” a 7- or 8-in. tablet, at between $249 and $299. “I don’t think Microsoft can afford to compete with low-end Android and ‘white box’ manufacturers on price,” Singh said recently.

Singh’s price range was closer to the established first-generation iPad Mini — which lists for $299 — than to the current crop of 7-in. tablets from the likes of Amazon and Samsung, priced at less than $200.

Rumored prices of a new slate of Surface Pro tablets — the models that run legacy Windows applications — also tilt toward the high end. A report Saturday by Windows Phone Central claimed that the next-generation Surface Pros will start at $799 and run up to $1,949.

Those prices are minus the keyboard that Microsoft virtually mandates in its marketing. A Surface keyboard currently runs between $80 and $140.

Although the $799 base price is $100 less than the lowest-priced 64GB Surface Pro 2 sold today, the combined tablet + keyboard package equals an out-of-pocket expanse around $900, still stratospheric for tablets, and in the realm of premium notebooks and the 2-in-1 hybrids Microsoft aggressively trumpets.

Minus a price-reduction strategy, Microsoft faces an uphill battle against the also-premium-priced iPad and a bewildering array of low-cost Android tablets. The smaller losses in the last two quarters are encouraging signs. But there are some other signals that the Surface is gaining ground, and doing it organically.

“Surface Pro is making some headway in corporate environments,” contended Ross Rubin of Reticle Research. “One of the big draws for Surface versus competitors is legacy Windows compatibility, and its pricing is more geared toward corporate customers.”

Fidel Deforte, the infrastructure and communications technology manager for the city of Cape Coral, Fla., agreed. In an email last week, Deforte outlined how he has begun replacing some senior managers’ hardware — typically a combination of an iPad and a Windows notebook — with the Surface Pro. And saving money as he did.

“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,” Deforte wrote.

All that Nadella needs is millions more stories like Deforte’s.

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Microsoft XP is in the queue of erasing

Microsoft has ended up encouraging users to stop using windows XP for very long.

Microsoft’s choice to remove its support team in the sand has sowed uncertainty and will likely encourage bad manners by several clients, analysts said at present.

“If next month someone finds another zero-day like this one, Microsoft might just shift the line once more,” said John Pescatore, director of emerging security trends at the SANS Institute, a security training company.

“In a method, this encourages awful manners. There’s a risk that people will look at it that way,” said Michael Silver, an analyst with Gartner, referring to those who will now question Microsoft’s determination to end XP maintain, and thus slow or even suspend their resettlement to newer editions of Windows.

The specialist were discussion about Microsoft’s shift on May 1 to problem fixes for a serious susceptibility in Internet Explorer (IE) that had been disclosed the week before and used by cyber criminals for an anonymous span of time before that to take control Windows PCs. Patching the bug was not strange; what was out of the normal was Microsoft’s choice to push the join to Windows XP equipment.

At First, Microsoft had set the finish of support for Windows XP as April 8, a date it had broadcast for years. When Microsoft software reaches its support departure time, it’s our business policy to stop public patching.

Just days after the limit, Microsoft fundamentally said, “Never mind,” and patched the IE helplessness on Windows XP. What had been sure — the support line in the sand — became irresolute?

Microsoft stand-by the decision, proverb it had bent to what it called “overblown” media exposure and explanation that it did so only because XP had only newly been retired.

“I don’t think the coverage was overblown,” said Pescatore.

Wes Miller, an analyst with commands on Microsoft, decided. “It was a extremely bad weakness,” he keen out.

Even so, the analysts were surprised at the let go of a fix for XP, not only because of the line Microsoft had so firmly drawn but because of the ramifications of erasing that line.

The precedent was what worried the experts. “totally, the standard matters to Microsoft,” said Miller. “It’s not a question of if, but when, this issue will come up yet again. Until key organizations are off of XP, every major vulnerability becomes a important chance for exploitation.”

Some consumers still having Windows XP may view Microsoft’s patching decision as a pass to carry on organization the 13-year-old operating system which, as Microsoft has repeatedly hammered home, lacks many of the higher security and anti-exploit features and technologies in newer editions, including Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.

Even further in the future, customers running Windows 7 may recall this XP patch and conclude that Microsoft is not serious about retiring that OS when its January 2020 support deadline nears.

“There is now a difference between what Microsoft thinks they mean and what [customers] think they mean,” said Miller. “Everyone is playing chicken. Which means [years from now] people may say, ‘I can keep running Windows 7.'”

Microsoft was in a “lose-lose” situation with XP, according to Silver, because of the operating system’s large user base. At the end of April, XP powered about 26% of the world’s personal computers, analytics company Net Applications revealed last week.

Although Microsoft didn’t talk about XP’s stubborn confrontation to retirement, and the huge numbers of PCs that still run the OS, the decision was clearly based on its continued prominence. Which makes one wonder, analysts said, what Microsoft may do in the weeks and months to come.

“May be Microsoft thought hard about this one. But if the same thing happened in a year, you wouldn’t see it. So that [patch last week] may have been the real line,” contended Silver.

“6 months from now, an XP vulnerability may get the same [media] coverage,” said Pescatore. “But then Microsoft has a much stronger legend. They might say, ‘XP’s dropped in half since April, so we’re sticking to the plan.'”

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Malicious Downloader’s calls out Microsoft

Anti-malware vendors advise about downloaders used to infect PCs

Microsoft is placing makers of downloader software on observe when it sees that their softwares are getting used to infect PCs, and it is effective anti-virus vendors that maybe these downloader agenda ought to be tagged as malware.

In its latest Security Intelligence Report the corporation comments that the use of previously benign downloaders has ever more become a means to infect computers with malware, mainly click-fraud programs and ransomware in which assailant extort cash from wounded in return for return their equipment to a useful state.

As part of its manufacturing teamwork, Microsoft shares the data it gathers from its clients about infections with related parties. In this case it tells the downloader makers in hopes they can restrict use of their products to legitimate purposes.

It tells anti-malware vendors so they are aware that certain downloaders represent a threat and should be removed from computers protected by their products, says Holly Stewart, a senior program manager in Microsoft’s Malware defense Center.

A downloader called Rotbrow was the one mainly often used to help malicious actions throughout the last partially of 2013, most usually by downloading a click-fraud app called Sefnit. Before that Rotbrow didn’t record at all as a tool use by attackers, Stewart says.

characteristically the downloaders are bundled with useful freeware such as software to unzip archive. The downloaders might be used legitimately to download updates to the unzip programs, or to download malware, Stewart says.

The dominant types of malware Microsoft observed being downloaded in this way during the last half of 2013 were BitCoin miners and click-fraud programs.

Bitcoin miners run in the background of infected computers to confirm and process Bitcoin transactions in exchange for earning Bitcoins. The attacker reaps the Bitcoins earned by the infected computers. Click fraud forces the infected computer’s browser to automatically click on advertisements that earn cash for each click logged. In both cases indication of the infections can decrease performance of the engine involved.

Microsoft also experimental the proliferation of ransomware, with one called Reveton important the pack and enjoying a 45% raise in use during the last half of 2013, Stewart says. The need to disinfect Microsoft computers of ransomware tripled during the same time period, according to the Security Intelligence Report.

Microsoft procedures prevalence of malware by including the number of computers cleaned per 1,000 computers that are execute Microsoft’s Malicious Software Removal Tool. For ransomware in general, that count rose from 5.6 to 17.8 between the third and fourth quarters of last year, Stewart says.

Ransomware attacker’s goal picky regions with particular ransomware platforms, she says. For example, the one called Crilock is aimed mostly at computers in the U.S. and U.K. while Reveton aims at the likes of Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Hungary and Austria.

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