If you want security updates, then you should avoid Google’s Android, according to Microsoft, but the company is nonetheless borrowing from Google’s Chrome release cycle to speed things up.
“Google just ships a big pile of code and then leaves you exposed with no commitments to update your device,” Terry Myerson, head of Windows at Microsoft, told attendees at Microsoft’s Ignite conference in the US on Monday.
The last major gripe information security experts had about Google’s updates for Android came with the search company’s decision no longer patch flaws in WebView for versions of Android below KitKat anymore, basically because it detracted from its work on features for new platforms.
Microsoft is no stranger to the pressures on software vendors to treat security more seriously, in 2002 launching the Trustworthy Computing Group following major malware outbreaks at the time. Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates spelled out the new era of “secure by default” coding principles to the company’s programmers.
A year later then CEO Steve Ballmer announced a new security patch update scheme that would become Patch Tuesday, though, despite others like Adobe following its cadence, the name has never been acknowledged by Microsoft. Nonetheless, Patch Tuesday has become an institution for security professionals established by more than a decade of Microsoft faithfully delivering security updates on the second Tuesday of every month for the bulk of its products, including Windows, Internet Explorer and Office.
As Myerson pointed out, next Tuesday the company will deliver the Tuesday security updates to 850 million Windows users worldwide.
“Next Tuesday, 850 million Windows devices — diverse Windows devices — across the planet will be updated by Windows update. Now let’s take a second and discuss Android. Google takes no responsibility to update their customers’ devices, refuses the responsibility to update their customers’ devices — with users and businesses increasingly exposed every day they use an Android device,” he said.
Come Windows 10 though and Microsoft will be abandoning the familiar rhythm of its security updates for something that resembles Google’s releases for its Chrome browser, which splits them into the “Canary” channel for those who want the latest features despite rough edges, “Beta” for a more stable version and “Stable” for the finished product.
Instead, Microsoft will adopt an update strategy that it’s been testing in its Windows 10 insider program, which offers the public the chance to test out unfinished builds of its new OS in the “fast” lane for for very early builds and the slow lane for later builds that are still not ready for general availability.
“With Windows Update and Windows 10, we have distribution rings. We have this for Windows 10 insiders program, where insiders get to decide ‘am I in the slow or the fast lane?’ where we see that some people want to see the update right after we finish the testing — they don’t want to wait a second.
“And then we have people who are stepping back… and want to see that there are no functional issues. This is great. We let the user choose and Windows Update for consumers and Windows 10, which distribution ring they would like to be part of.”
This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.