Much of the big news out of Microsoft this week focused on our alliances with partners like Verizon Wireless, Facebook and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Read on for the details.

The HTC Trophy comes to Windows Phone via Verizon. Verizon Wireless announced Thursday that the HTC Trophy, its first Windows Phone, will be available on its website starting May 26—and hit Verizon stores a week later on June 2. The phone will cost $149.99, after accounting for a $50 mail-in rebate with a new two-year contract. For many folks, that’s probably good enough reason to buy. But check this out: Verizon is sweetening the deal with a free Xbox 360 console game (up to $60 in value) for anyone who picks one up before July 15. Interested? Read more about the Trophy, pictured below, in this post on the Windows Phone Blog.

         HTC Trophy HTC Trophy 2 HTC Trophy 3

And in other Windows Phone news this week…On Wednesday, Windows Phone Blog Editor Michael Stroh reported that the folks down at Xbox announced the official timing and pricing of its much-anticipated Must Have Games program for Windows Phone. The program delivers six hot titles over six weeks, with the first slated to arrive in Marketplace next Wednesday. Some of those titles include: Hydro Thunder Go, Doodle Jump and, of course, Angry Birds. Also, just in case you missed it, the slick new USA Today app has arrived in the Marketplace.

Facebook adopts Microsoft’s PhotoDNA technology to fight child exploitation. Facebook is joining Microsoft in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s PhotoDNA program to combat child pornography. NCMEC’s program, using image-matching technology created by Microsoft Research in collaboration with Dartmouth College, gives online service providers an effective tool to take more proactive action to stop the distribution of known images of child sexual abuse online. Get the whole story in Thursday posts on the Official Microsoft Blog and the Microsoft on the Issues Blog, the latter of which was penned by NCMEC President and CEO Ernie Allen. Also, watch this video on the Microsoft News Center. The New York Times, Geekwire and TechFlash also covered the story.

Bing and Facebook team up to make search more social. Bing is adding 500 million new friends, and they’re all going to help the search experience become a lot more social. Microsoft today announced new features in Bing that bring together Facebook and search to offer users personalized results based on the opinions of their friends. The new social features, which are available today, surface the stories, content and sites that their Facebook friends “like” right on the results page. More detail is available in this feature story on the Microsoft News Center, which also includes a short video. Wall Street Journal reporter Nick Wingfield also covered the story.

San Francisco moves 23,000 employees to Microsoft’s cloud. The City and County of San Francisco today announced that it will upgrade and consolidate its multiple citywide email systems used by more than 23,000 employees as part of its ongoing efforts to improve the quality and efficiency of its services and reduce IT management costs.“By moving to the Microsoft platform, we not only get immediate improvements to our system, but we gain a disaster-resilient system that provides the most modern information tools, with solid support provisions that can scale with the needs of our constituents,” San Francisco Chief Information Officer Jon Walton said. For more detail, read this press release. Geekwire’s Todd Bishop also covered the story.

Avatar Kinect in your living room. When you smile, your Xbox 360 avatar will smile with you. Just a few months after Kinect turned heads with its controller-free technology comes Avatar Kinect, a new Xbox LIVE social experience that uses the sensor’s precise facial-recognition capabilities to project your face and your expressions into a virtual word. When it rolls out later this spring, “Avatar Kinect will let you hang out and socialize with seven of your friends in a simulated environment,” said Umaimah Mendhro, a senior product manager for Microsoft Startup Business Group. Read this feature story on the Microsoft News Center, which also features a really cool video, for more information.

How Microsoft Research and product teams collaborate. In this Wednesday post on the Next at Microsoft Blog – which features an in-depth infographic – blog editor Steve Clayton explains the R&D investment Microsoft makes each year and the balance of research vs. development. Of the total investment, a relatively small amount goes in to research compared to development. Check it out.

MSN unveils the Powerwall. Want to find out how business moguls spend their millions or which tech nerd is the world’s newest most eligible bachelor? Now you can. This new MSN site takes you inside the lives of the world’s biggest power players, from CEOs to politicians to royals. Powerwall gives you a humorous take on the daily news and gossip of the rich and powerful and their lavish lifestyles. Get the latest news on your favorite VIP from photo galleries or voice your opinion on our interactive polls or Facebook and Twitter. The MSN Blog has more on this story.

Thanks for stopping by for this edition of Weekend Reading. See you back here next Friday for more Microsoft news!

Posted by Jeff Meisner
Editor, The Official Microsoft Blog