Windows 10 S‘ security brought down by, of course, Word macros

The major premise justifying Windows 10 S, the new variant of Windows 10 that can only install and run applications from the Windows Store, is that by enforcing such a restriction, Windows 10 S can—like iOS and Chrome OS—offer greater robustness and consistency than regular Windows. For example, as Microsoft has recently written, apps from the Windows Store can’t include unwanted malicious software within their installers, eliminating the bundled spyware that has been a regular part of the Windows software ecosystem.

If Windows 10 S can indeed provide much stronger protection against bad actors—both external ones trying to hack and compromise PCs and internal ones, such as schoolkids—then its restrictions represent a reasonable trade-off. The downside is that you can’t run arbitrary Windows software; the upside is that you can’t run arbitrary Windows malware. That might not be the right trade-off for every Windows user, but it’s almost surely the right one for some.

But if that protection is flawed—if the bad guys can somehow circumvent it—then the value of Windows 10 S is substantially undermined. The downside for typical users will remain, as there still won’t be any easy and straightforward way to install and run arbitrary Windows software. But the upside, the protection against malware, will evaporate.

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Watch this guy play Super Mario Bros. IRL in Central Park using HoloLens

 Super Mario Bros. is iconic, so it’s a natural target for augmented reality development, where everything nostalgic is new again. This demo, created by Abhishek Singh, really is amazing, however. Singh recreated the first level of Super Mario Bros. as an augmented reality game on Microsoft HoloLens, giving himself a first-person perspective into a unique 3D look inside the classic… Read More

Check Point says Fireball malware hit 250 million; Microsoft says no

Microsoft sparked a curious squabble over malware discovery and infection rates. At the start of the month security firm Check Point reported on a browser hijacker and malware downloader called Fireball. The firm claimed that it had recently discovered the Chinese malware and that it had infected some 250 million systems.

Today, Microsoft said no. Redmond claimed that actually, far from being a recent discovery, it had been tracking Fireball since 2015 and that the number of infected systems was far lower (though still substantial) at perhaps 40 million.

The two companies do agree on some details. They say that the Fireball hijacker/downloader is spread through being bundled with programs that users are installing deliberately. Microsoft further adds that these installations are often media and apps of “dubious origin” such as pirated software and keygens. Check Point says that the software was developed by a Chinese digital marketing firm named Rafotech and fingers similar installation vectors; it piggy backs on (legitimate) Rafotech software and may also be spread through spam, other malware, and other (non-Rafotech) freeware.

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After three days, Skype’s outage is resolved

 After three days of connectivity issues which prevented some Skype users from being able to log in, make calls, or send and receive messages, the company says it has now fully resolved the problem. What it isn’t saying – at least not yet – is what exactly happened. Microsoft’s decision to stay silent on an incident of this length and scale – the outage impacted… Read More

How Microsoft Is Stealing Apple’s Cool Factor

“If we’re going to be able to create magical experiences with software, then the hardware will be the thing that people buy to go experience that,” Microsoft corporate VP of devices Panos Panay told TIME during a recent interview. We were discussing his company’s decision to release its first true laptop after years of selling hybrid computers, namely the Surface Laptop, which began shipping on June 15. “And [when] those two things work perfectly together in a seamless way, that brings elegance out,” he added.

If that approach sounds familiar — using the sleek, shiny allure of new gadgetry as enticement to deeper software experiences — it should. Apple has long prided itself on the way its hardware and software work together. “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware,” Apple cofounder and former CEO Steve Jobs said as he unveiled the first iPhone in 2007, quoting renowned computer scientist Alan Kay. It was both manifesto and goad, a philosophical mic drop preaching the inseparability of form and function.

Ergo the notion, evidenced by Microsoft’s shift to fully authored devices like the Surface line, that the company is finally heeding that Jobs-ian fiat. Observers have been saying so for months and in some cases years. Look a bit further and you’ll notice that former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer began sending up Apple-ish smoke signals as far back as 2012.

But the idea is reaching an inflection point with the emergence of Microsoft’s latest computers, the Surface Laptop and Surface Studio. The Surface Laptop oozes design characteristics redolent of Apple’s, from the way the notebook’s lid is crafted to be easily lifted with one finger, to the aluminum finish and glossy Windows logo etched into the back. Microsoft made sure to stress these fine points when it unveiled the laptop in May: “They put their heart and soul into every little detail,” Panay said, doting on the Surface Laptop’s production team. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the hinge or the creation of an entire category.”

Fastidious attention to trivial-seeming geometry is a tenet of Apple’s design credo. Jobs was famously fixated on the intricacies of his company’s products, so much so that he created his own shade of beige for the Apple II computer because he wanted it to be just right.

And like Apple, Microsoft has aimed its Surface lineup at premium shoppers. Even the Surface Laptop, which the company has been marketing to students, starts at $999. And cheaper models are unlikely. “When we think about the lower price points, that’s kind of where we stop,” said Panay. “We have lots of partners, great ones. We’re not trying to recreate a $400 laptop, just to make a laptop.”

But these ostensible Cupertino-Redmond parallels run deeper than build quality or pricing. By assuming control of the ergonomics of devices that run Windows, Microsoft can more freely experiment with new input mechanisms. The strongest evidence for this arrived as Microsoft debuted its 28-inch, all-in-one Surface Studio late last year. The company also unveiled a novel new accessory to go with it: the Surface Dial, a high-tech knob that can be used on the computer’s screen or alongside it like a mouse. It allows for unusual but intuitive interactions, say the option to zoom or rotate map, or change the color of a paint brush with a subtle twist.

The Surface Dial still has to win over consumers, but it spotlights a tradition-bound tech giant’s willingness to experiment with different methods of interaction as it sculpts new computing forms. Apple originally rose to fame, then rebounded from a long creative slump, for exemplifying precisely that: the original Macintosh and first iPhone were esteemed in part because their interfaces worked so fluidly with control points like mouse input and multitouch. Apple didn’t invent the touchscreen or computer mouse, but because it was designing both the software and hardware for the iPhone and Macintosh, it was better-equipped to create intuitive experiences for them. Microsoft is plying the same terrain when it incorporates ideas like the Dial and stylus into its Surface lineup.

Profound differences between these tech companies remain. For one, Apple maintains complete control over its hardware and software, while Microsoft’s ecosystem of partners will always be an important part of how Windows computers are developed and sold. But J.P. Gownder, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, argues that Microsoft may have the leading edge over Apple in terms of hardware: “There’s just a general sense that if you’re looking for who’s the leader right now, who is going to wow you with something new and interesting, it’s going to be the Surface group.”

Indeed, between its new Surface computers and HoloLens headset, Microsoft may be emerging as the dominant innovator. Save for its dalliance with a touchable OLED strip, Apple hasn’t significantly altered its MacBook laptop family since the 12-inch model debuted in 2015. Nor has it offered new hardware products focusing on emerging technologies like augmented and virtual reality, although it did debut new tools for developers to create AR apps. Apple CEO Tim Cook may quibble over the distinction between innovation as change and innovation as “making things better.” But there’s another kind of distinction that matters at last as much — between enthusing your base and growing it — that makes Redmond’s latest maneuvers feel more aspirational and intrepid.

Microsoft launches a new AI startup program at Station F in Paris

 Microsoft is rethinking its strategy when it comes to startup acceleration in Paris. The company is going to focus on artificial intelligence. This will lead to a new program for AI startups at Station F.
Microsoft has had a startup accelerator in the Sentier neighborhood for a few years now. When Station F opens at the end of June, the company is going to focus exclusively on artificial… Read More

Outlook for Mac 2016 Gaining Delivery Notifications, Send Later Option, and More

Microsoft today announced that it’s implementing several new features in Outlook for Mac, all of which have been highly requested by its Office 365 subscribers. Timed emails, delivery notifications, email templates, and more are being added to the Mac software.

With a new Send Later feature, Outlook for Mac users can draft an email and then schedule it to send at another time using the new drop-down Send Later button located next to the send button. The email is saved to Drafts and then sent automatically at the specified time.

Alongside Send Later, there are now options to be notified when an email has been delivered and read by a recipient. Delivery receipts confirm that an email has been sent to the recipient’s inbox, while a read receipt confirms that a message has been opened. Outlook for Mac users can also choose to decline to send read receipts.

To make it quicker to send the same type of emails, messages can now be saved as templates, and emails can also be dragged and dropped to the calendar to make automatic calendar appointments. Microsoft is also improving the account setup experience through automatic detection of email account type (Exchange, IMAP, or POP) and automatic email account importing when you’ve previously signed into another Office app.

The new account setup experience is available for all Mac users who are running Outlook version 15.34, while the delivery and read receipts, email templates, and calendar changes are available for all Office 365 subscribers running Outlook version 15.35. Office 365 users who are also Office Insider Fast users on version 15.36 have access to Send Later, a feature that will be available to all Office 365 subscribers starting in July.

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Outlook 2016 for Mac now lets you send emails later, track messages & more

 Microsoft this morning announced a series of new features coming to its Outlook for Mac 2016 software for Office 365 users, including those that will allow you to schedule your emails, track the message’s delivery, and find out if the email was read, among others. Some of the changes are rolling out first to those who receive early updates through Microsoft’s Office Insider Fast… Read More