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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).
Image: Web | Print

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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.”

Security 1682_Activity_thumb_37FA155A

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.

Holiday Collage

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

Students everywhere count down the hours to ‘Hour of Code’

December 6th, 2013 No comments

It’s just one hour. But it’s an hour that could change young lives forever, and help guide them to a better future. That’s why Microsoft is challenging as many young people as possible to participate in the “Hour of Code” during Computer Science Education Week, Dec. 9-15.

“Hour of Code” is an introduction to computer science, and if those two words – “computer science” – scare or intrigue you, consider taking part. “Hour of Code” is aimed at demystifying “code” and showing that anyone can learn the basics. Anyone. (Yes, adults, you are absolutely encouraged to participate, too!)

The program 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.”

Nearly 29,000 events are planned in 160 countries, events that will reach an estimated 4 million students, with Microsoft employees participating in many of them around the world.

“A computer science education is a ticket to upward mobility, and every student deserves to have access to it,” said Peter Lee, corporate vice president and head of Microsoft Research.

“Hour of Code allows us to reach students, engage them and show how fun programming can be. I am proud that Microsoft’s tools will play an important role in doing this.”

Among those tools are the Kodu Game Lab and TouchDevelop. Kodu is a visual programming language from Microsoft Research that makes it easy for students to create games, characters and landscapes. (You can learn more about Kodu and Hour of Code here.) TouchDevelop lets anyone create mobile apps and games on any smartphone, tablet or PC. (See video above.)

You can write scripts simply by tapping on the screen, and you can share your scripts on the TouchDevelop website or submit them to the Windows Store or the Windows Phone Store.

Among those from Microsoft Research who will be out at schools next week is Rane Johnson-Stempson, Microsoft Research’s education and scholarly communication principal research director.

She will be in central Oregon at the Culver School District middle school and high school. She also plans to return later in the month to do programming with students in sixth through ninth grade, and to meet with 93 middle-school girls “to give them exposure to computer science research and the importance of User Experience Design.”

So many times, she says, young people – especially girls – “only hear about the difficult tasks of programming and algorithms; they don’t hear about the art, creativity and problem solving required to ensure an application meets the end user’s needs.”

Computer Science Education Week, an annual program organized by Code.org and the Computing in the Core coalition, is held at this time of year in recognition of the birthday of computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, born Dec. 9, 1906.

Microsoft retail stores around the country also will host customized events to kick off Computer Science Education Week and support Hour of Code. Each store will create its own experience to drive awareness of the goal of giving every student the opportunity to learn computer science. Check out the activities in your area by visiting Microsoft Store events information here.

Microsoft’s YouthSpark initiative, started in September 2012, is another program that focuses year-round on computer science education, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people.

“Technology is now, more than ever, a great equalizer for 21st century jobs,” wrote Lori Forte Harnick, Microsoft’s general manager for citizenship and public affairs in a September 2013 blog post about YouthSpark’s first year.

Computer programming jobs, she said, “are growing at two times the national average in the U.S., yet less than 2.4 percent of college students are graduating with a degree in computer science. And, of course, there are still many youth without the digital literacy skills that are required for employment in most workplaces around the world. In light of this continued mismatch between skills and jobs, we are increasing our efforts to bring technology education to youth.”

Microsoft strongly supports efforts to expand access to STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – education and classes, and applauds efforts underway in numerous states to allow computer science courses to count toward high school graduation requirements. Right now, most states do not allow high school computer science classes to count towards graduation requirements.

Through the YouthSpark initiative, Microsoft is committed to providing young people around the world with access to computer science education through digital literacy programs such as TEALS — Technology Education And Literacy in Schools — DigiGirlz and the Imagine Cup, as well as its partnership with Code.org. (To read Microsoft’s YouthSpark stories from around the world, visit this page, and visit the YouthSpark Hub to learn more about Microsoft’s digital literacy curriculum.)

In the U.S., in YouthSpark’s second year, Microsoft’s TEALS expansion is more than doubling the number of high schools where software engineers are helping to teach basic and advanced computer science courses. TEALS now includes 70 schools in 12 states.

Through those programs and others, including Office 365 Education, Skype in the Classroom and Partners in Learning, Microsoft has expanded digital inclusion and access to technology and training for 78.6 million youth; inspired and empowered 14.9 million future innovators through tools, mentorships and events; and increased employability and entrepreneurial skills opportunities for 9.9 million young adults.

You can read more about Microsoft’s involvement with “Hour of Code” in this post by Brad Smith, general counsel and executive vice president of Legal & Corporate Affairs at Microsoft, and learn more about “Hour of Code” itself at Code.org.

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Suzanne Choney  
Microsoft News Center Staff