Welcome to the Black Friday edition of Weekend Reading! We’ve got stories on weekend deals on technology gifts, Microsoft’s acquisition of VideoSurf, the eagerly anticipated update to the Xbox LIVE dashboard and more. Read on!

Black Friday weekend deals on technology gifts. Microsoft is offering an array of special offers for people who can’t wait for the turkey to get cold before diving into holiday shopping. See our slideshow of great deals, most of which will be available Nov. 25-28 only. Also, thinking of giving a new Windows-based PC this year? Take a look at some of the hottest models on the market this holiday season. And check out this guest post on the Windows Experience Blog from technology expert Rob Enderle, who lists his “favorite things for the holidays.” Finally, read this Tuesday post on the Windows Phone Blog for some tricks and shopping apps for Black Friday and beyond. Below is a screenshot of some of the Windows Phones available on Black Friday:

hw_phones_page

“Those aren’t pillows!” In case you haven’t seen it, “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” is a classic John Hughes holiday comedy about the misadventures of Neal Page and Dell Griffith (played by Steve Martin and the late, great John Candy) as they struggle to make it home for Thanksgiving. Neal and Dell experience a slew of frustrations on their long journey home: flight delays, terrible train rides, bad rental cars and more. Now, if only Neal and Dell had Windows Phones, they could’ve avoided many of those mishaps. Read this Nov. 18th post on the Windows Phone Blog that highlights some Windows Phone apps that may just help save you a misadventure or two on your way home for the holidays.

Microsoft acquires video content discovery company VideoSurf. Microsoft has announced the acquisition of California-based video discovery technology company VideoSurf Inc. Founded in 2006, VideoSurf offers a back-end computer vision technology that “sees” frames inside videos to make discovering content fast, easy and accurate. Over time, Microsoft will integrate this technology across its entertainment platform to augment the Xbox 360 ecosystem and evolve search and discovery of entertainment content on Xbox LIVE. To get the rest of this story, read this press release on the Microsoft News Center.

Microsoft announces Windows Azure and Windows Phone challenges for Imagine Cup 2012. Earlier this week, Microsoft announced two individual Challenges for Imagine Cup 2012: Windows Azure Challenge and Windows Phone Challenge. This year students will have the opportunity to submit projects into both of these Challenges in addition to the Software Design, Game Design and IT Challenge competitions which were announced in October. For more on this story, read this Nov. 18th post on the Imagine Cup Blog.

Xbox 360 dashboard arrives Dec. 6th. In this Tuesday post on his blog, Xbox LIVE’s Major Nelson reports that the Xbox LIVE dashboard update will arrive on Dec. 6th. The update is free to all console owners and will feature new personal and social features including Cloud Storage for Game Saves and LIVE Profile, beacons and Facebook Sharing, enhanced Family Settings, integrated voice and gesture controls across the dashboard and in apps and Bing voice search (available this year in the US, UK and CA). It’s a major milestone in Xbox LIVE’s evolution. Speaking of milestones, don’t forget to vote in the latest poll on The Official Microsoft Blog, which asks readers to weigh in on what they think is the most important milestone the console has hit since its debut a decade ago. The poll closes Monday, so you only have a few days left to vote! Below is a screenshot of the updated Xbox LIVE dashboard:

untitled

That’s it for this Black Friday edition of Weekend Reading! We hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

Posted by Jeff Meisner
Editor, The Official Microsoft Blog