Microsoft’s week involved fixing a security flaw, on top of gearing up for releases over the next few years.
Security researchers found that the Duqu Trojan, discovered two weeks ago, exploits at least one zero-day vulnerability in Windows. According to those researchers from Hungary’s Laboratory of Cryptography and System Security, the vulnerability in question is triggered by a booby-trapped Word document, which, when opened, allows remote code execution.
The Duqu Trojan drew considerable attention thanks to its similarities with Stuxnet, the worm that made headlines after infecting industrial control systems in Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility. Security firm Symantec has suggested a link between the two pieces of malware.
As soon as news of the flaw leaked, Microsoft began working on a fix. On Nov. 3, it issued a temporary Duqu workaround, separate from the monthly Patch Tuesday advisory. A permanent patch will be released later as part of the company’s regular update schedule or as an out-of-band update.
Microsoft’s upcoming Patch Update for November is described as light, with only four bulletins addressing issues in the Windows operating system. One of those bulletins is rated critical, and affects Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.
Outside the security realm, Microsoft announced plans to launch a Kinect for Windows commercial program early in 2012, further expanding the hands-free controller beyond the gaming realm.
In a press release, the company described the program as a way to give “global businesses the tools they need to develop applications on Kinect that could take their businesses and industries in new directions.” Some 200 businesses, including 25 companies in the Fortune 500, are already involved in a “global” pilot program designed to explore the technology’s commercial ramifications.
Microsoft had originally designed the Kinect controller as a way to play Xbox 360 games via gesture and the spoken word, targeting those casual games who’d made the Nintendo Wii and its unconventional, gesture-centric controllers such an enormous hit. Within weeks of Kinect’s release in November 2010, however, tech pros found a way to hack the Kinect’s 3D camera. Soon videos began to appear on YouTube, demonstrating how the next-generation hardware could do everything from control robots to paint 3D images.
Microsoft eventually chose to embrace the Kinect tinkering, claiming it had deliberately left the device open to modification. Microsoft then started highlighting its intention to offer Kinect’s technology to academic institutions, with an eye toward boosting the latter’s research. The next step, apparently, involves creating a sandbox for companies to innovate atop Kinect, and maybe create applications where gesture control comes in particularly handy.
This week, Microsoft also announced an advance for its Bing search engine: specifically, an update for the Bing for Mobile app for iPhone and Android, which added some new features and brought the overall experience more in line with that offered by Windows Phone.
“Today’s update uses HTML5 to blend the mobile browse experience with the app experience so you get a consistent and fast mobile search experience,” read a Nov. 2 posting on the Bing Community blog, “whether you’re using m.bing.com from your browser or the Bing app.”
Microsoft’s Windows Phone tightly bakes Bing’s search engine into the interface, blurring the line between traditional browser-based search and the platform’s “Metro” interface. Evidently, Microsoft seems interested in extending aspects of that experience to other smartphone platforms.
In addition, this app update also includes Deals, which the blog describes as “one-stop deal shopping and convenient mobile phone access for local deals from more than 100 deal providers across the United States.” It makes Bing’s video domain, launched in October on m.bing, available on the iPhone. The Android version of the app offers a combination of real-time transit routing and news. And the Maps/List Split View allows users to synchronize a list, such as directions, into a single view alongside a map.
Microsoft also continues to gear up for the launch of Windows 8, in conjunction with its hardware partners. According to a leaked slide that appeared first this week on Netbooknews.de, before drifting over to ZDNet and TechRadar, Asus will release Windows 8 tablets before the end of 2012.
Beneath a “Windows market” subhead, the slide suggests Asus will offer a “ticket for selling Windows 8 tablet in Q3’12,” alongside “2 hero products GTM in Q3’12.”
While that language makes Asus’ Windows strategy somewhat unclear, it hints that the company will produce two Windows 8 tablets in the third quarter of 2012. If verified, that would align with rumors that Windows 8 will appear in a broad-based release closer to the end of next year. Windows XP and Windows 7, Microsoft’s two most successful Windows versions, both arrived on store shelves in October of their respective release years.
Along with Kinect and its mobile software, Microsoft will depend on Windows 8 to help drive its revenue and profits in future years. That means no shortage of news to come as the company continues to ramp up the operating system.