We are at the end of yet another week, so it's worth recapping everything that went on in the world of Microsoft in the past few days. This was a very, very busy week with lots of news about browsers, continued impressive performance from Defender, and a disappointing offensive move from Google. Find out all the details about this and more in our weekly digest for March 26 - April 1!
Google on the offensive
Out of nowhere, Google went on the offensive this week to criticize the use of Microsoft software and services in private and government organizations. It implied that these institutes are primarily using legacy software which makes them a ticking time bomb in the cybersecurity space and that the only reason that they are not switching to other vendors - preferably Google - is because of the natural resistance to change.
Google made all of these claims while citing the results of a survey that it commissioned itself. The survey interviewed 2,600 U.S. workers across different domains. The majority of the respondents claimed that the use of Microsoft tech makes their organization vulnerable to cybersecurity incidents while almost half also stated that there are other non-Microsoft products which would allow them to be more productive at work. Interestingly, this survey doesn't go into details about why the respondents have these stances.
In a response, Microsoft has stated that it is disappointed but not surprised at Google's antics. However, it brushed off the claims on a sassy note saying that it will continue supporting customers with its "best software and security services". You can find out more details about Google's
marketing fluff / hit piece survey here.
Browser news galore
This was a super-busy week when it came to news related to browsers. Most importantly, Microsoft is finally making it a bit easier to change the default browser in Windows 11. Rather than manually changing the association for every extension, you can use a single button to set associations to your preferred browser for major file types and extensions. In a statement to Neowin, Mozilla appreciated the changes but demanded that Microsoft should make the process even easier and developer-friendly.
Earlier in the week, a serious but undisclosed Chromium vulnerability was also patched which resulted in both Microsoft and Google to issue emergency updates to their respective browsers. Microsoft is also planning some other changes to Edge. Canary builds of the browser include quick access to Office web apps, hints of the return of Workspaces, saving of tab groups as bookmarks, and an improved history experience with a custom date picker. In the same vein, Edge 100 also landed today with PDF previews and protection against memory-based vulnerabilities.
Edge adoption is picking up pace too, the browser has managed to overtake Apple's Safari as the second most popular desktop browser, according to Statcounter data. In fact, Microsoft has also placed an upgrade block on some Internet Explorer users and won't offer them Windows 11 unless they first import their data to Edge.
Talking about Windows 11, the only build in the Dev and Beta Channel this week was 22581.200 (KB5013296) to test the servicing pipeline. However, Microsoft has stated that we'll possibly get new builds in the coming week.
Although Windows 11 adoption appears to have stalled a bit, there are a couple of app updates design to pull in more customers. Microsoft has been slowly improving its unreleased tabbed File Explorer user experience, "Your Phone" has been renamed to "Phone Link" with a Windows 11 design refresh and Honor support, and the Clipchamp app now allows unlimited 1080p video exports.
Defender continues to impress
There was no shortage of news in the cybersecurity space either. For starters, Microsoft Defender once again scored full marks in the latest AV-TEST rankings and performed similarly well in MITRE's Engenuity Adversarial Tactics, Techniques, and Common Knowledge (ATT&CK) Evaluations. In the latter, Microsoft's defensive arsenal was tested against human-operated ransomware in simulations across multiple platforms. The simulation sported over 100 steps and 66 unique ATT&CK techniques and Microsoft 365 Defender was able to detect and protect against all major attack stages.
Even if we talk about typical consumer use-cases, Defender now has a "Vulnerable Driver Blocklist" to protect PCs from malicious drivers. This system has been built in partnership with other vendors. However, Defender SmartScreen on Windows 11 Beta devices is apparently causing some performance issues with media playback. The "fix" appears to be disabling Defender SmartScreen, but that could leave you vulnerable to other threats.
Circling back to the enterprise space, five critical vulnerabilities have been discovered and patched in Microsoft Azure's Defender for IoT. And finally, Microsoft has announced Office 365 Government Secret cloud for the U.S. government. This will allow it to secure classified data with the highest level of protection.
- Microsoft has formed a new cloud-native Xbox division and restructured to prioritize Android services too
Surface Laptop 4 AMD and Surface Studio 2 have received March firmware updates
Microsoft is now selling certified refurbished Xbox Series X consoles, with some conditions in tow
"New" Azure Front Door has been announced as Microsoft's modern enterprise CDN
PowerToys 0.57.0 is out with some stability improvements
Microsoft Business Applications Launch scheduled for April 6, registrations now open
Office for iOS will soon let you edit OneDrive documents files, even when you're offline
Microsoft shared a guide about how you can configure Group Policy to make the most out of Windows updates
Visual Studio 2022 version 17.0 for Mac Preview 8 is now available
Enhanced Teams apps like Power BI, SurveyMonkey, Zoho Projects, and Mural can now be utilized in Office.com and Outlook in certain preview channels
Under the spotlight
This week, Neowin News Reporter Dean Howell directed our audience to Killed by Microsoft, a website which calls itself "a free and open-source list of discontinued Microsoft services, products, devices, and apps". It's a pretty interesting repository and you will likely see several familiar names, including Windows Phone (R.I.P), Zune, and Silverlight. Read more about this here.
Meanwhile, I published a roundup of the top 10 features that people want from OneDrive. Although Microsoft is quite responsive to feedback in this space, and the company does keep adding new features, it's clear that there is a clear divide between what consumers want and what they actually get.
Finally, News Reporter Taras Buria wrote a handy guide on how you can customize folder thumbnails in Windows 11 version 22H2. If this is something that tickles your fancy and you love personalizing your software, do check out the guide here.
Our most interesting news item of this week is related to University of Arizona now allowing students to earn credit towards their degree for playing Age of Empires IV and interacting with the supplemental educational content being made available in the title. It's a pretty unique initiative and is the first of its kind at this scale. Read more about it here.
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