This edition of Weekend Reading has stories on Xbox 360, Microsoft’s new joint venture with GE, Windows Phone and several products recently featured on “Ellen”. Remember, only 15 shopping days left till Christmas, folks!

A big week for Xbox 360. Earlier this week, Microsoft unveiled a new Xbox dashboard for all your digital entertainment purposes. You can read more about it in this press release on the Microsoft News Center, which features a slideshow and this post on The Official Microsoft Blog from Marc Whitten, corporate vice president of Xbox LIVE. Also, don’t miss this interview on the Bing Search Blog with Michelle Holtmann, whose core search team was instrumental in developing the Bing on Xbox capability seen in the new dashboard. Finally, the Xbox Companion app for Windows Phone is now available – read more about it in this Wednesday post on the Windows Phone Blog. Below is a screenshot of the EPIX interface on the new dashboard, which lets you choose from thousands of hit Hollywood movies like “Iron Man 2” and “True Grit”:

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GE, Microsoft to launch joint venture aimed at global healthcare system transformation. General Electric Co. and Microsoft announced Wednesday plans to create a joint venture aimed at helping healthcare organizations and professionals use real-time, systemwide intelligence to improve healthcare quality and the patient experience. Upon formation, the new company will develop and market an open, interoperable technology platform and innovative clinical applications focused on enabling better population health management to improve outcomes and the overall economics of health and wellness. Read this press release on the Microsoft News Center and this post on The Official Microsoft Blog for the rest of the story.

Microsoft front and center on “12 Days of Ellen.” On Monday, hit talk show host and funny lady Ellen DeGeneres featured a slew of Microsoft products on her “12 days of Ellen” segment celebrating the holidays. Some of the products Ellen showed off on her show included the Kinect for Xbox 360, Windows Phones and Windows 7 laptops. You can check out video of the show in the consumer newsroom on the Microsoft News Center as well as a breakdown of all the products Ellen featured on her show.

And in Windows Phone news this week… The holiday season is the dominant theme this week on the Windows Phone Blog. Throwing a holiday party? Read this Dec. 2nd blog post to find out which Windows Phone apps can help you plan your soiree. And check out the latest installment of “Pinworthy” to get the low down on seven Windows Phone apps to keep your kids entertained during the holidays. Below are a few screenshots of some of those apps for helping you plan the ultimate holiday get-together:

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Hotmail named best Web app of 2011 by PC Magazine. The Hotmail team got some great (and humbling) news recently – Hotmail was named best Web application of 2011 by PC Magazine. We were particularly excited to see that people are taking notice of Hotmail’s war on Graymail and the work we’ve done this year to make Hotmail faster. There are a lot of great Web applications out there, and we’re in great company, but it was an honor to make the very top of the list. For the rest of this story, read this Dec. 2nd post on the Inside Windows Live Blog.

Maximize the season with MSN’s Holidays Hub. This time of year can be stressful and joyful in equal parts as gift-buying, parties, decorating, cooking and all-around merrymaking threaten to make the holidays feel more like a chore than a pleasure. MSN’s Holidays hub trims that holiday time commitment – think of it as one-stop shopping for news, advice, and holiday fun during this busy season. For the Holidays on MSN hub, the MSN Network Programming team has gathered the best stories, slideshows and videos from around MSN in a single spot. For more on this story, check out this Dec. 2nd post on The MSN Blog.

Microsoft Advertising releases technical preview of Advertising SDK for Windows 8. Earlier this week, Microsoft shared the monetization opportunities that will be available for developers within the Windows 8 app ecosystem. One of those opportunities will be the ability to advertise in Windows 8 apps. As you can imagine, we are pretty excited about the opportunity and potential this brings to app developers and marketers. In preparation for this new ecosystem, we’re pleased to announce that the technical preview of the Microsoft Advertising Software Developers Kit (SDK) for Windows 8 is available for download. For the rest of this story, read this Wednesday post on the Microsoft Advertising Blog.

That’s it for this edition of Weekend Reading! Thanks for stopping by and best of luck in all your holiday shopping!

Posted by Jeff Meisner
Editor, The Official Microsoft Blog