Microsoft News Center
Welcome to The Fire Hose – the newest blog on the Microsoft News Center!
As its name suggests, the blog’s primary mission is to cover the latest daily news and developments across the entire company. And since Microsoft pretty much makes news every day – multiple times per day – you can count on a fire hose of information here on this blog.
The Fire Hose will give you an inside view of Microsoft.
That said, our intention is not to overwhelm you with every piece of news the company makes. That truly would be a fire hose. Rather, our job as editors is to curate on your behalf. We’ll find the hottest, most compelling stories about our technology and, of course, the people who make the magic happen here at Microsoft – and bring them to you.
For the second consecutive year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has named Microsoft to its Green Power Partnership Top 50 List—and this year our ranking increased to second on the Top 50 List.
According to the EPA, Microsoft is purchasing nearly 1.9 billion kWh of green power, which is enough energy to meet 80 percent of Microsoft’s electricity use in the U.S. That’s an increase of nearly 70 percent from last year, when Microsoft used 1.1 billion kWh of green energy. Our annual purchase of green power is equivalent to avoiding the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of nearly 285,000 passenger vehicles per year or the CO2 emissions from the electricity use of more than 204,000 average American homes annually.
Microsoft Director of Community Affairs Jane Broom has an interesting post today over on Microsoft on the Issues about the importance of making computer science courses a core part of high school curriculums.
“In a global economy that’s increasingly driven by technological innovation, computer science skills have become as fundamental as the traditional ‘three Rs.’ But unfortunately, our nation’s schools haven’t been able to keep up with the incredible pace of change,” Broom writes. “The state of Washington is typical. Of the 770 public and private high schools in the Evergreen State, only 35 offer the Advanced Placement course in computer science.”
One step in the right direction would be to make computer science count toward a high school graduation requirement in math or science.
As many a parent likely knows, Kid’s Corner is a feature of Windows Phone 8 that enables a user to set up a customizable lock screen and provide children with their own area of their parent’s phone, where they can play with games, music and video without being able to access (or change!) other areas of the phone.
The Windows Phone team celebrated the Kid’s Corner feature in February by having parents submit their kids’ drawings based on their responses to the questions: “What do you wish your Windows Phone could do? How do you imagine yourself, your family, and others using your phone?” They received whimsical drawings from kids all over the world.
Artist Dave DeVries, of The Monster Engine, took the winning drawings and painted them as realistically as possible. Each of the drawings is accompanied by an explanation or story from the child artist. Below is a screenshot of DeVries' version.
“Foodie favorite OpenTable just got a major update for Windows Phone 8, with a new look and great new ways to explore restaurants and book a table,” wrote Juliette Guilbert today in a post on the Windows Phone Blog.
Among the coolest new features: You can now see your upcoming reservations (or, if you haven’t booked one yet, open tables for two nearby) right on your live tile or lock screen.
Every week, the Windows Phone Store’s Red Stripe Deals program brings you three popular apps and games for at least 50% off the original price. This week’s Red Stripe Deals are the usual mix of Xbox titles, indie games and top-rated apps:
Congratulations to science and technology company 3M for winning the 2013 United Way Spirit of America® award for philanthropy, volunteer engagement and community impact!
Microsoft also received two Summit awards from United Way for our community impact and volunteer engagement. The awards program recognizes outstanding United Way Global Corporate Leaders.
“At Microsoft we really do believe that our strongest asset is our people. We are deeply honored to receive two United Way ‘Spirit of America’ awards which highlight the real impact of our employees in the local communities in which they live and work.”
-Lori Harnick, General Manager, Citizenship and Public Affairs, Microsoft
In March, Xbox 360 maintained its position as the number one console in the U.S., selling more units than any other console and marking the 27th consecutive month as the best-selling console.
According to data from The NPD Group, Xbox 360 sold 261,000 units in March, maintaining the number-one console spot in the U.S.
Total retail spend tallied US$401 million (hardware, software and accessories), the most for any console in the country.
On April 22 the world will come together to demonstrate support for environmental protection in celebration of Earth Day. To inspire you to get out and do something on Monday, Bing has partnered with The Nature Conservancy, the leading global conservation organization, for an Earth Day-themed #BingIt Twitter Chat.
We’ve got some important news for developers courtesy of the Windows Phone Developer Blog to report.
Facebook has announced the Facebook SDK for .NET as part of the Facebook Technology Partners program. This is a C#/XAML–based SDK that makes integrating your Windows Phone and Windows 8 style apps with Facebook a breeze.
Microsoft is hosting the kickoff event for its Microsoft YouthSpark initiative in Atlanta by bringing together more than 150 leading educators, government officials and nonprofits to discuss the state of youth education in the area. As part of the YouthSpark Atlanta launch, Microsoft has signed an education alliance agreement with Morehouse College, one of the leading private Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the country.
The education alliance between Microsoft and Morehouse will bring key components of the YouthSpark programs to Morehouse’s student body, including Microsoft IT Academy, Microsoft Innovation Lab, Campus recruitment, and its Leadership series. Through these programs, Microsoft aims to inspire Morehouse students to explore careers in technology and business.
For those of you who have been wanting to check out the latest entertainment experiences on Xbox 360, now’s your chance. Beginning at 7 a.m. PT today, Xbox LIVE Gold has been unlocked in the United States, Latin America, Japan and Canada, and will remain unlocked throughout the weekend, until 10 a.m. PT on April 22.
All Xbox owners in these regions, regardless of their current Xbox LIVE subscription status, will have access to online multiplayer gaming, Video Kinect and our entire catalog of entertainment apps.
Microsoft and Epic Studios have announced the second expansion in the “Gears of War: Judgment” multiplayer experience, the Call to Arms Map Pack, which brings players three new multiplayer maps, a brand-new mode called “Master at Arms,” and six armor and gun skins for customizing your characters and weapons.
If you’re looking for some weekend entertainment, Netflix has just launched its third original series today, a supernatural thriller titled “Hemlock Grove”.
On Thursday Neowin posted a story about Halo 4 taking first place in several categories at this week’s eighth annual Game Marketing Awards in San Francisco. The launch of Master Chief’s long-awaited return won Outstanding Overall Marketing Campaign of the Year, and took first place in the Outstanding TV or Theatrical Ad category for its Halo 4 Scanned commercial. Additionally the launch won in the Best Use of Digital Media or Digital Social Media Marketing category, and took home the award for Standout Overall POP Display for the Halo 4 countdown counter unit installed at numerous retail stores.
Since the unveiling of the Microsoft online store (MicrosoftStore.com) in 2009, the store has grown substantially. The original Microsoft online store sold downloadable versions of Windows and Office in only five countries. Today, we sell a wide variety of Microsoft products and services to customers worldwide in 228 markets including the United States, Europe, Japan, China, Russia and many others.
Microsoft takes our responsibilities for protecting your privacy seriously.
To that end, today we launched a new consumer awareness campaign focused on online privacy, with resources at www.Microsoft.com/YourPrivacy. We want to help people learn more about the tools and technologies Microsoft provides that give them greater control over personal information as they browse the Web and use their favorite Microsoft devices. As part of these efforts, we also launched an advertising campaign to kick start awareness and conversation.
Earth Day only comes once a year, but here at Microsoft, we’re thinking about the environment year-round.
Microsoft Chief Environmental Strategist Robert Bernard has a great roundup of several environment-related activities and initiatives over on the Microsoft Green Blog today. You should check it out.
The Microsoft Hardware team has added a fresh batch of artist-designed mice to their Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 Limited Edition Artist Series.
The new additions include designs from artists Deanne Cheuk (whose work you can see here), Kustaa Saksi, Matt Lyon, Joy Deangdeelert Cho, Si Scott and Dana McClure.
Not only does the Limited Edition Artist Mouse Series allow you to express your personality, it’s also ideal for productivity. It features a battery life of up to eight months, and its 2.4GHz wireless technology and BlueTrack Technology let you work, browse and play from virtually anywhere. The snap-in Nano transceiver allows you to remain plugged into your computer at all times, and the ambidextrous design and rubber side grips keeps you comfortable while you’re working away.
Games are a great way to learn about the environment.
In recognition of Earth Day, the Microsoft Student Blog has highlighted five games developed by finalists from the 2012 Imagine Cup where the environment played a central role.
The five games include “Verdant Fantasy”, “Radiant”, “Swifty Ball”, “Red Phoenix” and “Bloom Block”.
The pace is picking up for year’s Imagine Cup, with Microsoft announcing the 10 finalist teams that will advance to the 11th annual U.S. Imagine Cup Finals Demo Day on May 13 in Silicon Valley. If you’re new to Imagine Cup, it’s the competition Microsoft sponsors each year to encourage students to apply their technical chops to solve some of the world’s toughest problems and, in the process, help set the stage for their future careers. The photo below shows the 12 winning teams from the Imagine Cup 2012 U.S. Finals.
It’s easy to feel helpless when we hear about species falling into extinction in far-away lands. But now, thanks to a new app that Microsoft Research developed in partnership with researchers from two organizations in Latin America, hikers and other nature enthusiasts can play an important role in keeping endangered species alive.
The app is called LiveANDES and is part of a system designed to collect, house and analyze data about Latin America’s wildlife.
For consumers these days, keeping their various online accounts safe is paramount, from email to banking to Netflix. Last week, we announced a major upgrade to Microsoft account, which includes an optional two-step verification to help keep your account more secure.
My colleague Steve Clayton likes to jokingly refer to cable TV remotes as “the most complicated user interface on Earth,” and it never fails to draw a knowing chuckle from audiences. Why is it that our most common interactions with technology are often the least intuitive?
If you’ve ever gone to war with your remote just to get that episode of ‘Mad Men’ to play already, then you’ll love the Windows Phone team’s new “Companion Apps” collection, featuring 12 apps that turn your Windows Phone into an easy-to-use remote control for a variety of everyday devices. There are apps for your entertainment center, an app to adjust your mood lighting at home, and even a Webcam Remote, so you can finally see what your cat does when you’re not around.
Check out the whole collection over in the Windows Phone Store.
We’re excited to provide an update on countries where Surface RT and Surface Pro (screenshot above) will launch in May and June. Additional details on launch events, retail availability and pricing will be provided in future posts to the Surface Blog and via twitter at @Surface ahead of actual launch dates.
Surface RT will launch in Malaysia on April 25, in Mexico by the end of May and in Korea and Thailand in June. This expansion will result in Surface RT being available in 29 markets. For those who are counting, it’s already available in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the U.S.