This week, Microsoft announced the winners of the 2011 Imagine Cup and held the Worldwide Partner Conference, a four-day event in Los Angeles for the company’s more than 640,000 global partners. On Thursday, it was also announced that the Xbox 360 maintained its position as the number one console in the U.S. for the sixth consecutive month.

Imagine Cup 2011 winners revealed. On Wednesday, Microsoft announced the winners of the ninth annual Microsoft Imagine Cup, the world’s premier student technology competition, honoring student innovations that address global problems such as improving road and fire safety, eradicating poverty, and creating a more sustainable environment. The company also unveiled plans to launch a three-year, $3 million competitive grant program to help recipients realize their vision of solving the world’s toughest problems. For the rest of this story, read this press release.

The Worldwide Partner Conference. As many know, Microsoft this week held a four-day event in Los Angeles for its more than 640,000 global partners. As Next at Microsoft Blog Editor Steve Clayton reported Wednesday, WPC is the biggest event L.A. will see this year. It attracted 15,000 attendees from more than 120 countries. Read Clayton’s post, “The breadth of Microsoft’s business,” for the rest of the details. Also, read this Wednesday post on STB News Bytes on how Microsoft “will invest $5.8 billion in tools, training and incentives throughout fiscal year 2012 to better help partners grow their businesses and meet evolving technology needs of customers.”

Xbox 360 No. 1 console for the sixth month in a row. Halfway through 2011, Xbox 360 maintained its lead in the U.S. console market, selling more units in the U.S. than any other console for 12 of the past 13 months. Even while console and software sales across the industry have slowed, Xbox 360 continues to grow and remains on track to have the biggest year in Xbox history. Read this Thursday post on the Official Microsoft Blog for the rest of the story on the June numbers from NPD Group, an independent market research firm that tracks the digital entertainment market.

Geek of the Week. On Thursday, Geekwire profiled Jacquelyn Krones, a senior product manager and researcher in Bing, in its “Geek of the Week” post. Geekwire Editor Todd Bishop describes Krones as “the type of person who loves digging into data and, better yet, being surprised by what she finds. She studies consumer needs, and figures out what those needs mean for the development of a product.” Check it out.

Introducing new Bing weather and finance results. Bing recently refreshed the look and feel of its weather results and added more resources to help you plan your weekend activities, know what to pack for your upcoming trip or pick your next vacation spot. Bing shows you forecasts from multiple providers such as Weather.com, Weather Underground and AccuWeather. Also, earlier this week, Bing announced it is teaming with leading finance resources including Seeking Alpha, StockTwits.com, TheFlyOnTheWall and Trefis.com to help you make more informed financial decisions.

How we made SkyDrive so much faster. Microsoft hopes you’ve had a chance to try the new version of SkyDrive that shipped a few weeks ago. You probably noticed that the performance of the Web experience has been dramatically improved and redesigned for simplicity. In this Wednesday post on the Inside Windows Live Blog, Windows Live Development Manager Steven Bailey covers a few of the things we did to make the new SkyDrive Web experience faster. Also, check out this Wednesday post on the Inside Windows Live Blog about account hijacking in Hotmail.

Windows Phone Marketplace tops 25,000 apps. In this Weekly Wrap on the Windows Phone Blog, blogger Michael Stroh reports that the Windows Phone Marketplace has reached 25,000 apps as well as a number of other interesting news tidbits. Don’t miss it.

An Interview with Microsoft Board Member Charles H. Noski. Charles H. Noski has been a Microsoft director since 2003. He recently sat down for an interview for another installment of our profiles on Microsoft’s Channel 9 featuring our board of directors. In his interview, Mr. Noski discusses his background, what it’s like to be a member of the Microsoft board, and offers a behind the scenes view of how the board operates. Go to the Microsoft on the Issues Blog to see the 18-minute interview with Mr. Noski.

That, as they say, is a wrap! Drop by The Official Microsoft Blog next week for Wednesday’s Midweek Download.

Posted by Jeff Meisner
Editor, The Official Microsoft Blog