In this edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got stories on Xbox 360 ending 2011 as the number-one selling console in the world, a record breaking year for Microsoft’s Employee Giving Campaign, Safer Internet Day and a super-duper cool slideshow on a slew of new thin Windows 7 laptops.

Xbox 360 maintains lead in U.S. console market in January. Kicking off 2012, Xbox 360 continues to lead the console market, turning in another month as the best-selling console in the U.S. Just last week, Xbox 360 was revealed as the number-one selling console worldwide in 2011, according to publicly disclosed financial data from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. Read this Thursday post on The Official Microsoft Blog for the rest of the story. And don’t forget that on April 3, the Kinect Star Wars bundle and game will be released – Xbox LIVE’s Major Nelson has more on that on his blog. Below is a screenshot of the R2D2-inspired limited edition console:

hardware_xbox-starwars_page

How pink flamingos helped Microsoft employees raise $100 million for nonprofits. If you had visited one of Microsoft’s locations in the United States during October you might have found an employee’s office filled with pink flamingos. For a small sum donated to a nonprofit of their choice — and matched by Microsoft — an employee can have their co-worker’s office “flocked” with plastic pink flamingos. It’s one of hundreds of creative fundraising activities that make up our employee giving campaign at Microsoft. The 2011 campaign was our largest year of employee giving since the program began in 1983, with $100.5 million donated and matched for community organizations and nonprofits. For the complete story, read this Wednesday post from Brad Smith, executive vice president of Legal & Corporate Affairs, on Microsoft on the Issues, as well as this post on the Microsoft Citizenship Blog and this feature story on the Microsoft News Center.

New fashion-forward PC models strut their stuff. Each year, designers, buyers, supermodels, celebrities and paparazzi from around the world converge for the annual Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week.This year, thin is in for the technology world, as manufacturers are producing more stylish, fashion-forward PCs that are light in the chassis and offer a range of unique color options. For a dash of bling, consumers can add hip new tech accessories such as Microsoft designer mice and laptop bags for the chic and trendy techie. If you’re into technology and fashion, you’ll want to see what we’re talking about, so whenever you’re ready, turn down the lights, turn up the music and check out this feature story and slide show on the Microsoft News Center for the rest of the story. Below is a screenshot of the Acer Aspire S:

hardware_AcerS3_page

Safer Internet Day. Each February, the world recognizes Safer Internet Day (SID), an event dedicated to promoting responsible use of the Internet and mobile technology, particularly among youth. Organized by Brussels-based Insafe and co-founded by the European Union, Feb. 7 marked the ninth installment of SID. This year’s theme, "Connecting Generations and Educating Each Other,” once again found Microsoft playing an active role. For the rest of this story, read this Tuesday post on Microsoft on the Issues as well as this press release on the Microsoft News Center focused on a new research report that examines how people of all ages are using online communication and social networking to enhance their family relationships. Finally, don’t miss this letter on Xbox LIVE’s Major Nelson from Alex Garden, general manager of Xbox LIVE, focused on the importance of security and online safety.

You love Windows Phone. The critics love Windows Phone. We love Windows Phone. The question now is: How can we convince everybody else? A few months ago we created the Suggestion Box for your feature suggestions for future versions of Windows Phone. Your passion and creativity has floored us. So now we’ve made a new place for your advertising and promotion suggestions. In other words, how would you get the word out about Windows Phone? Read this Feb. 3 post on The Windows Phone Blog for more detail.

Microsoft and 24/7 Inc. join forces to deliver the future of customer service. Microsoft and 24/7 announced on Tuesday an agreement to jointly bring the power of natural user interfaces (NUIs) and data analytics at cloud scale (Big Data) to enable the future of customer service for businesses. The agreement includes Microsoft merging its interactive self-service assets (clients, people and technologies) into 24/7. The agreement also includes an R&D partnership, long-term IP licensing and Microsoft taking an equity stake in 24/7. Read this press release and this Tuesday post on The Official Microsoft Blog for the rest of the story.

That’s a wrap for this edition of Weekend Reading! Thanks for stopping by!

Posted by Jeff Meisner
Editor, The Official Microsoft Blog