Google phasing out Windows

osxorlinux.png From the FT, via Forbes:
The Financial Times reported that, because of security concerns about hacking attacks and viruses, Google has been ending its use of Windows since January.
Google Doesn't Want To Do Windows Anymore


  1. I’m not an expert on the subject, but this instructive post on Metafilter leads me to blieve that ‘security concerns’ are a red herring:

    Highlights (quoted from posted link):
    * I’m one of the organizers of the PWN2OWN competition.
    * Macs are more insecure (than pretty much anything modern and common).
    * [For the PWN2OWN contest] we require not just a bug, but a working exploit to win, and it’s simply easier to do in OS X than it is in either Windows or Linux.
    * the reason why there are basically no OS X worms is a combination of: 1) there aren’t that many OS X boxes…2) traditionally most malware authors have been developing for windows…3) Installing dodgy cracked software from untrusted sources is more common on Windows than OS X. 4) There is more third party software for Windows…

    Feel free to school me if that’s an incorrect assessment. If it is correct, then I’m not sure what to make of the Google move.

    1. Two points:


      1) there aren’t that many OS X boxes…2) traditionally most malware authors have been developing for windows…3) Installing dodgy cracked software from untrusted sources is more common on Windows than OS X. 4) There is more third party software for Windows…

      Why Macs see fewer attacks doesn’t really matter. Google is an organization, and they’re focused on end-results: if they see that Macs are not attacked, that’s what they’re going to use. If, 10 years from now, Macs have gotten so popular that there’s tons of malware for them, Google might reconsider.

      2) People at PWN2OWN are attention-seeking almost by definition. Headline reads “Hacker says Windows is full of security holes”, no one gives a shit. Headline reads, “Hacker says OS X is less secure than Windows”, blogosophere goes crazy. I’d take his words with a grain of salt.

      1. (1) Why Macs see fewer attacks does matter, if by moving to Macs a huge corporation thereby begins to create conditions which undermine those reasons. But more to the point, if “Macs are more secure” is not one of those reasons, then this point of your rebuttal is questionable given that one of the premises of moving to Macs is, well, security. “They’re easy to hack but no one uses them” to my mind readily becomes “pwn3d google lolz” without further assumptions.

        (2) Indeed!

      2. @mister-o:

        I’m not going to “school” you but can I suggest some amendments? After Charlie wrote the comment Snow Leopard was released. That added NX and stack overflow detection but the ASLR stuff is not comprehensive. You can see Charlie’s response to that here: (better but only 80% of the way). It’s true that OSX is not as secure as Windows Vista/7 (or a modern Linux distro on a 64 bit machine) on a purely technical basis. Your comment definitely applies to OSX 10.5 (Leopard) and earlier though. However neither will stop social engineering attacks…

    2. I think #3 plays a huge part. Windows malware thrives precisely because Windows users tend to (or have been trained/conditioned to) install every piece of software a Web page tries to push at them. Mac and Linux users have a more “If I need it, why isn’t it in my regular software repository?” mindset. Most malware gets in through social engineering, and Mac and Linux users are conditioned to be more skeptical about requests to install software.

      And I suspect part of it’s an attempt to undermine Microsoft even more. Google’s rather big and popular. Dropping support for Windows internally means that issues with Google’s apps and services on Mac and Linux will be an immediate problem for Google employees, issues on Windows (ie. IE) won’t be. And since most problems on Windows can be solved by installing Firefox or Opera or Chrome, Windows users will be finding themselves increasingly on the flip side of “Just run Windows and you won’t have any problems.” for a service they find indispensable. Most people used Windows and IE and MSOffice because everybody they had to interact or work with used them, and Google’s nearly big enough to be able to trigger that same sort of network cascade.

    3. The problem is PWN2OWN is a competition filled with attention whores and it isn’t a through testing of Mac OS X in the real world.

      Google is smart enough to see this and looks at real world results.

      Of course, now someone will march in here and confidently declare that there aren’t any viruses propagating on a widespread level for Mac OS X because “no one cares” and Mac marketshare is too low for virus-makers to bother with it.

      The only huge problem with that narrow assertion is… well, reality. In reality, there was a time in the past when Apple’s marketshare was much lower and there were actually quite a few viruses in the wild along with a good number of trojans.

      HUH?! How is that possible? It’s possible because that’s when Macs ran OS 7-9 and the OS wasn’t based on UNIX like OS X is now and has been for over a decade without widespread security issues for average users.

      Yep, when the Mac OS had lower marketshare, hackers… were.. indeed… in reality… motivated to make viruses and trojans for Macs. So that throws that theory right out the fuckin’ window. Since the Mac OS upgraded to a UNIX base, successful viruses and trojans became more difficult to pull off.

      That doesn’t mean there won’t be more and more security threats as Apple’s marketshare climbs, because there most certainly will be.

      But this security through obscurity bullshit claims for Mac OS X is just that… bullshit.

      These guys predict year after year how the Mac will become a rotten Apple laden with massive security problems for the average user. And year after year as the marketshare climbs they get proven wrong again and again with the reality of the situation. Macs users still aren’t plagued with rampant problems like you find on Windows. Here it is over a decade later and there’s STILL only a smattering of issues.

      I don’t think my Mac is impregnable. But little things like reality make people like me and the folks at Google realize the better, currently safer choice is the Mac OS.

      And don’t think for a second some of those hackers and articles out there claiming OS X is less secure than Windows aren’t getting funding from MS.

      1. lol, Kool Aid much? Is everybody getting funding from MS and at the same time performing zero day hacks on IE 8? And, year after year, Mac user percentage creeps from 6% to 10% or maybe 11%. At this rate, it will take 2 more decades to get to 18% (current percentage of smartphone market that the iphone holds, a “market marvel”). Will the malware writers seriously target that small demographic and live long enough to see their botnets thrive?

        1. lol, Kool Aid much? Is everybody getting funding from MS and at the same time performing zero day hacks on IE 8?

          Comprehend much? I said some, not all… not even most. Has your own ingestion of Flavor Aid interfered with your reading comprehension? Are things getting fuzzy for you? Maybe you should sit down.

          And, year after year, Mac user percentage creeps from 6% to 10% or maybe 11%. At this rate, it will take 2 more decades to get to 18%

          Ok, it’s obvious you either didn’t read what I said or just simply have comprehension issues. When the Mac OS marketshare was lower… wait, fuck that, go back and read what I said, I’m not repeating myself to the slow ones.

  2. the only way anyone has ever been able to program a mac “virus” that did anything was when they were given the username and password to the system. And even then it couldn’t spread to other people without them also giving it their username and password. The argument that it’s simply because there are fewer OSX boxes just doesn’t hold water.

  3. I think its a red herring too.

    Why would a company that specializes in Linux based networking environments, is now publicly engineering a competing OS to microsoft, and offers web-based versions of the core office productivity suites, continue to support Windows ?

  4. Is the illustration supposed to be documenting the story?

    Or something somebody just made up as a joke I didn’t get and wasted time on google looking for those results?

    (Oh u ppl wit da mad phtshp skilz!)

    Feel free to pass hand over head and make wooosh sounds.

  5. Apples mixing with oranges. If the security concern is a directed attack, as happened earlier from China, then switching OSes won’t help. Also, their use of IE6 and not being patched up to date didn’t help. Google got lazy and got hit. General types of malware are adequately covered by keeping patches up to date, using a more secure browser than the leakiest one available, and periodically running programs like Ad-aware and Spybot and Malwarebytes. I agree that the security angle on this story is a smokescreen and the change has more to do with upping awareness of the new Chrome OS coming out soon.

  6. Come on. Go do a search for “Windows” on Google. See if you get the same results. You won’t.

  7. I’m really interested to see if this story goes anywhere past this point. While Microsoft is probably a more ‘important’ company still, Google is no slouch.

    I’ve always felt that Microsoft is successful because they produce software that people need, while Google is successful because they produce software that people want.

    1. In what way is Microsoft more important? It’s big and is still coasting off the momentum of its monopolistic crimes, but it’s not changing things, disrupting things. Linux has big time momentum and Google does too.

      1. It’s unfortunate that Microsoft is important. I use a Mac because I like OS X, I my humble opinion it’s the best BSD distro available. I have a Droid because I like Android. I use the operating systems that I like.

        90% of the rest of the world just use Windows because it’s what they know. It’s changing, but slowly. Office remains the business software of choice, again, not because it’s inherently better than Open Office or any other option, but because it’s what people know.

        I have friends who work for Fortune 500 companies that could save hundreds of thousands of dollars by switching to open source software. They’ve proposed it. The corporation isn’t interested in saving the money. They think they need Office.

        For lack of a better word, the majority of computer users are ‘addicted’ to Microsoft products. They either can’t or don’t want to stop using them.

        The most telling symptom of the addiction is when companies came to the realization that Vista was garbage, they didn’t jump to Linux. They really didn’t switch to Mac. They went back to XP. They were more interested in retrograding then making a lateral move.

        I love Google. I don’t even use Neo Office anymore, I use Google Docs. I don’t use facebook anymore, I use Picasa and Google Buzz. I laugh when I see commercials for Bing.

        As of right now, Microsoft is more important to the majority of users. To them, Google is just a search engine. Dollars to donuts your average user would rather switch from Google to Yahoo than from Windows to Linux.

  8. It is true that there is more malware in the Windows ecosystem, and moving off windows will reduce your exposure to everyday broad security threats which are considered to be no more than a nuisance to any competent security team.

    However, moving off Windows will not improve your security position when it comes to targeted attacks. It is assumed that in a targeted attack, the attackers have knowledge of the victims topology, and have tailored their attack to that topology.

    In fact, because Windows has such market saturation, and a thriving malware ecosystem, it can be argued that Windows security practices and tools have matured far beyond other platforms.

    This sounds like a red herring to me too.

  9. LOL at the “Mac is insecure” comments. In the Real World, everyone knows it’s less trouble than Windows.

    On the actual Google change – no one thinks that they are just readying to eat their own dog food? (i.e. Chrome OS)?

  10. Speaking as someone who uses Windows, Mac, HP-UX, Solaris, vxworks, and linux on a daily basis: I use Ubuntu on my home systems. Server, laptop, desktop… it’s cheaper and easier than anything else.

    Of course, if you only use one operating system 60% (or more) of the time, you aren’t going to be any good at using anything else. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Use what works for you, master your chosen platform.

    Computer professionals – people to whom an OS is just a tool in the kit like a hammer or wrench – can be identified by the fact that they don’t really care what OS you use. For themselves, they will use whatever tool fits the current task. Google is mostly computer professionals, they mostly use Goobuntu. The rest use macs.. macs are geared toward artsy types, like writers, illustrators and PR flacs.

    1. The rest use macs.. macs are geared toward artsy types, like writers, illustrators and PR flacs.

      [citations needed]

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