Microsoft has released an update for Windows 8 that fixes several vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer, Word and Exchange. This is the first time the software giant has issued a fix for the relatively new Internet Explorer 10. Five of the seven security updates were marked 'Critical' in the Windows Update service, while the other two were labeled 'Important'. Nine of the 12 vulnerabilities were marked 'Critical'.

All is not well in the world of Windows 8, however. According to an earlier report, sales of Windows-powered computers fell 21 percent overall in November. This indicates a very lackluster debut for Microsoft's operating system. Since the launch of Windows 8 on October 26, Windows laptop sales are down 24 percent, while desktop sales are down 9 percent compared to the same period last year, said NPD Group, which tracks computer sales weekly using data supplied by retailers.

Redesigned Windows 8 baffles consumers

Update fixes critical vulnerabilities

Usually a new Microsoft release boosts PC sales, as many consumers hold off from purchases for several months so they can get hold of the latest software immediately. “After just four weeks on the market, it's still early to place blame on Windows 8 for the ongoing weakness in the PC market,” said Stephen Baker, Vice President of Industry Analysis at NPD. “We still have the whole holiday selling season ahead of us, but clearly Windows 8 did not prove to be the impetus for a sales turnaround some had hoped for.”

NPD's data does not include Microsoft's new Surface tablet, which is only available in its own stores, nor does it take into account sales of PCs to businesses, which has recently been a much stronger market. But if the trend is borne out over the rest of the holiday shopping season, this would be a huge disappointment for Microsoft, as well as PC makers such as Dell Inc , HP and Lenovo.

Since launch, Windows 8 accounted for only 58 percent of Windows computing device unit sales, compared to the 83 percent Windows 7 accounted for at the same point after its launch in 2009, NPD said, partly caused by poor back-to-school sales that left many Windows 7 PCs on retailers' shelves.

It is still unclear how successful Windows 8 will be in the long term. The touch-optimized, tablet-friendly system was designed to appeal to younger users with a colourful, app-based interface, but has confused some traditional Windows customers more used to keyboard and mouse commands. Beneath the new interface design, it does not offer any radical new computing power.

Earlier, a top Windows executive said Microsoft had sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses in the month since the launch. That is ahead of Windows 7 at the same stage, but it was not clear how many of those were pre-orders, discounted upgrades or bulk sales to PC makers. According to tech research firm StatCounter, about 1 percent of the world's 1.5 billion or so personal computers—making a total of around 15 million—are actually running Windows 8.

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