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Weekend Reading: Dec. 20th Edition–‘Biggest holiday season yet’ for Windows Phone and Windows Store apps

December 20th, 2013 No comments

In this edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got stories on the momentum building behind Windows Store and Windows Phone Store app downloads, how Bing broke out of the (search) box in 2013 and a Microsoft researcher who uses data to power his predictions.

Buoyed by new gift cards and other promotions, as well as the “biggest holiday season yet,” app development for the Windows Phone Store and Windows Store is going strong. “We’re already seeing momentum build with the (Windows) Store surpassing 12 million transactions per day and Windows Phone Store surpassing 200,000 apps,” writes Todd Brix on the Windows Phone Developers Blog, who encouraged developers to finish and update apps to meet these demands. “Taking into consideration the Microsoft and partner promotions and consumer purchase of Microsoft and Xbox gift cards in retail locations, we are forecasting over $100 million to be available for consumers to buy apps and games this holiday season across 100 retailers in 41 markets.” Some apps and games we highlighted this week include the NORAD Tracks Santa apps, the Staff App Pick: American Airlines and LiveATC, the Amtrak app, Phriz.be, the Gameloft Games collection, “Girls Like Robots,” “Subway Surfers,” “Nemo’s Reef,” Zinio, “Avengers Alliance,” Viber, “Catan” and “Riptide GP2.” To show that you don’t have to be a professional developer to get in on the action, small business owner Holly Shore created her mobile app within hours with Windows Phone App Studio.

In 2013, Bing broke out of the search box. It evolved to power a wider range of services and devices than ever, from voice search in Xbox One to Siri’s Web search results. In Windows 8.1, you can use the Search Charm to explore your files, Web results and more with a single query. Third-party developers can now benefit from Bing technology, including optical character recognition, translation, maps and voice controls, using the new Bing Developer Center. These are just some of the many ways Bing redefined search in this breakout year. You can also check out this infographic for some surprising 2013 stats.

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Microsoft researcher David Rothschild is legendary for his ability to literally predict the future using a unique and rigorous approach to data analysis. He correctly called the results of the 2012 presidential election in every state but one. He nailed 19 of the 24 Oscar categories this past year. And he’s constantly pushing the boundaries of predictive science through experimental live polling, online prediction games and more. In this interview, David Rothschild tells you what to expect in 2014, breaks down his forecasting philosophy, and explains why you should trust professional gamblers more than cable news pundits.

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On Wednesday, University of Colorado Health (UCHealth), one of the state’s largest healthcare providers, announced its migration to Microsoft Office 365. This decision was made in large part due to Microsoft’s long-standing commitment to data security and privacy and because the company supports HIPAA requirements beyond what other vendors provide. Microsoft was the first major IT cloud provider to offer a comprehensive, peer-reviewed Business Associate Agreement (BAA) for all of its customers. The BAA, and its subsequent updates to reflect new product offerings and changes in the law, has been widely accepted within the industry as a best practice, and has helped Microsoft establish itself as a trusted healthcare data steward.

Consumers found big savings on Xbox 360 games, adds-ons, avatars and more with the “Countdown to 2014” daily deals from the Xbox Game Store that began Tuesday, Dec. 17. In addition to those great deals, we saw the debut of the Xbox Video and Xbox Music apps for in the Windows Phone Store. Windows Phone 8 is the only phone that offers Xbox Video support this holiday season, which means you can buy and download favorite movies and TV shows from the Xbox Video service and watch them wherever you go. Use your Xbox Music Pass to stream from a catalog of tens of millions of songs using the Xbox Music service. Also, you can use the Verizon FiOS TV app now on Xbox One and Snap View to watch two programs at the same time.

This week on the Microsoft Facebook page, we helped out last-minute shoppers with eight tech gifts that won’t break the bank and five no-stress downloadable gifts.

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Thanks for stopping by this edition of Weekend Reading. Happy holidays, wherever you are!

Posted by Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff

Weekend Reading: Dec. 13th Edition – Microsoft introduces the Cloud OS Network

December 13th, 2013 No comments

In this edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got stories on Microsoft’s new Cloud OS Network, Xbox One sales and a gift guide for goodies under 100 bucks to help you get through the holidays.

On Thursday, Microsoft introduced the Cloud OS Network, a worldwide group of more than 25 leading cloud service providers who have embraced our Cloud OS vision and will deliver hosted services built on the Microsoft Cloud Platform, which includes Windows Server with Hyper-V, System Center and the Windows Azure Pack. To get the rest of the story, read this post on The Official Microsoft Blog from Takeshi Numoto, corporate vice president of Cloud and Enterprise Marketing, and watch the video below.

Xbox One sales totaled more than 2 million in first 18 days. Since its Nov. 22 launch, sales have averaged more than 111,111 units a day, a record-setting pace for Xbox. “We continue to be humbled and overwhelmed by the positive response from our fans,” said Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of strategy and marketing, Xbox. “Demand is exceeding supply in our 13 launch markets and Xbox One is sold out at most retailers. The Xbox team is continuing to work hard to meet consumer demand, delivering consoles to retailers as fast as possible this holiday season.” To help people find Xbox One, Major Nelson recently shared some tips for consumers this holiday season.

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If you’re feeling the holiday pinch, in terms of time and cash, we’ve got some great gift ideas for under $100. There’s plenty of cool technology options that won’t break the bank, including Microsoft’s Wireless Mouse 3500 Studio Series Artist Edition, Nokia Lumia 925 Windows Phone device and a 12-month Xbox Live Gold Membership. Check out those ideas and more in the slideshow below, and see other ways people are using technology at Made Possible by Microsoft.


Affordable gifts for tech lovers
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Turn heads wherever you go with this phone’s unique metal design and polycarbonate back. With SkyDrive built in, your photos are automatically backed up to protect your holiday memories. $49 with two-year contract at AT&T; $0 up front with two-year contract at T-Mobile (pricing may vary).
Nokia Lumia 925 Windows Phone
December 12, 2013
Turn heads wherever you go with this phone’s unique metal design and polycarbonate back. With SkyDrive built in, your photos are automatically backed up to protect your holiday memories. $49 with two-year contract at AT&T; $0 up front with two-year contract at T-Mobile (pricing may vary).
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New security features were being rolled out this week to give Microsoft account users more visibility and control of their accounts. Last spring, we released two-step verification. Since then, many users said they would like to get more insight into activities on their accounts. “So we added a new view that allows you to see your sign-ins and other account activities,” wrote Eric Doerr, Group Program Manager, Microsoft Account. As you can see in the example below, different types of activity are now visible to you, including “successful and unsuccessful sign-ins, the addition and deletion of security information and more.” If you do see something suspicious, “there’s an easy ‘This wasn’t me’ button that will help you take steps to protect your account.”

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Microsoft joined AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter and Yahoo in calling for reforms in government surveillance. “People won’t use technology they don’t trust. Governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it,” wrote Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel and executive vice president, Legal & Corporate Affairs. While many recent revelations have focused on the U.S. government, he said, “in reality this is a global issue. It requires coordinated steps to ensure the flow of information across borders and avoid conflicts between governments. By definition, the world needs a global discussion.” Microsoft and other industry leaders suggest principles for government reform at a new site, ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com.

It was the week that could change young lives forever, and it involved an “Hour of Code.” Many from Microsoft worldwide participated in the annual “Hour of Code” event, giving an hour – and in many cases, more – of their own time to teach students to code. “Right now, less than 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer science, yet computer programming jobs are growing at twice the national average and are among the top paying fields,” wrote Satya Nadella, executive vice president, Cloud and Enterprise, at Microsoft. “Hour of Code” is sponsored by Code.org, the nonprofit organization that Microsoft is a founding member of, which is dedicated to “growing computer science education by making it available in more schools.” If you missed it, check out these Microsoft sites for some quick coding lessons: Kodu Game Lab and TouchDevelop.

From the “breathtaking” category of the week’s events, a preview version of the new Photosynth was released. On the Bing Search Blog, the Photosynth team wrote that the preview version represents “the next phase of our ground-breaking experience that analyzes digital photographs to generate three-dimensional views of real world spaces.” Combined with the recent release of Bing Maps Preview for Windows 8, the team hopes this will be a “step forward toward our goal of creating a digital replica of the planet with an immersive 3D way to traverse and explore the world.” The New York Times headline put it another way: “Updated Microsoft Photosynth Makes HDTV Look Low-Resolution.”

Ceiling of Palau de la Musica Catalania by David on Photosynth

This week on the Microsoft Facebook page, we made holiday shopping a little easier with six awesome ultrabooks, four great touchscreen laptops and seven amazing tablets.

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That’s it for this edition of Weekend Reading. Hope you get some time to relax and rest up this weekend, in between all the holiday shopping. We’ll see you next week!

Posted by Suzanne Choney
Microsoft News Center Staff

Weekend Reading: Dec. 6th Edition – Microsoft stands up for customer privacy

December 6th, 2013 No comments

In this edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got stories on Microsoft’s role in protecting customer data, how 150,000 students, administrators and staff members in Canada have started using Office 365 and Microsoft Research’s first Artist in Residence.

Brad Smith, general counsel and executive vice president of Microsoft’s Legal & Corporate Affairs, wrote about how “many of our customers have serious concerns about government surveillance of the Internet.” He added, “We share their concerns. That’s why we are taking steps to ensure governments use legal process rather than technological brute force to access customer data. Like many others, we are especially alarmed by recent allegations in the press of a broader and concerted effort by some governments to circumvent online security measures – and in our view, legal processes and protections – in order to surreptitiously collect private customer data.”

On Wednesday, Microsoft announced that Canada’s second-largest public school board – the Peel District School Board – has deployed Microsoft Office 365 to more than 150,000 students, administrators and staff members. And, in another big boost for educators, schools and universities that use Office 365 ProPlus for faculty and staff can now extend the service to students for free. Small businesses also received more help in setting up Office 365 from the latest video in the Garage Series, as you can see below.

James George is Microsoft Research’s first Artist in Residence, who is as at home amongst algorithms and software code as he is in galleries and behind a camera. For three months, the Idaho native relocated to Redmond from his current home in Brooklyn as the first Microsoft Research Artist in Residence (AiR). And in a way, it was a homecoming for the University of Washington alum, who graduated with a computer science degree. George straddles that border between art and technology, and has no problem blurring those lines in his work. Starting Dec. 3, his art installation, “Instance,” will inhabit the Studio 99 art space in Redmond, right in the heart of Microsoft Research.

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James George, Microsoft Research’s first Artist in Residence

The week after U.S. Thanksgiving continues the holiday gift-giving frenzy, and we gave you some great ideas to make it less crazy for you. For the DIY set, nifty gifts are close at hand with these tech tips and tools. For the voyagers in your life, these holiday gifts brighten and lighten globe-trotters’ travels. And for that ultimate gift-giver – you know, that jolly guy in the sleigh who makes lots of stops around the world – Microsoft has put a fresh spin on the annual tracking of Santa’s journey through the launch of the 3D, touch-optimized NORAD Tracks Santa project.

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The Bing Maps Preview app for Windows 8.1 brings the world to your fingertips – in 3D. It gives you personalized local recommendations via Local Scout and smart notifications, real-time traffic updates and a 3D mapping experience of more than 70 cities (and counting) across the globe. Read more about it on Next at Microsoft and the Bing Search Blog. Bing also released a report of its top searches in 2013 – with lots of familiar names and faces (Beyonce, Tim Tebow and the Dallas Cowboys among them).

The Windows Store and Windows Phone Store gained apps and games that satisfied both adventure seekers, home buyers and many more shoppers. You had a lot of new choices to shop from this week, including the Staff App Pick: Zillow and the App of the Week: (download NOOK and take advantage of special offers in the U.S., the U.K. and Spain). You can also find “Dungeon Hunter 4” for free from the Windows Store and the Windows Phone Store and manage personal finances through Mint.com from the Windows Store and the Windows Phone Store. A new Lync app for Windows 8.1 now gives you control of a shared screen and other improvements. Yammer – Microsoft’s social networking service for the workplace – just updated all of its apps with an updated design and a long list of handy new features.

If you’re looking for Windows Phone apps, you’ve got a lot to choose from with these deals and new offerings: Super Photo, “Crumble Zone” and “Final Fantasy” (the latest Red Stripe Deals collection in the Windows Phone Store), MyFitnessPal, “Wheel of Fortune” and Cisco WebEx Meetings.

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This week on the Microsoft Facebook page, we watched an internationally renowned wedding and lifestyle photographer capture a wedding using a Lumia 1020.

Thanks for stopping by this edition of Weekend Reading, which is heading into the homestretch as we say the long goodbye to 2013. See you next week!

Posted by Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff