In this edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got the scoop on the launch of msnNOW, a new and improved Facebook app for Windows Phone and a new Microsoft Research project called Layerscape.

MSN launches msnNOW to keep you in the know. Ever feel like you have to jump from site to site in order to piece together what’s happening in the world? Good news for those who like to stay up-to-date on the latest trends — msnNOW, a new service from MSN at now.msn.com, will help you stay in the know. msnNOW is the first service to surface the latest buzz from Facebook, Twitter, Bing and BreakingNews.com, all in one place. It cuts through the clutter of the Web, providing an up-to-the-minute view of breaking trends and the hottest social conversations, what people are saying about them, and why they matter. For more on this story, read this feature story and this press release on the Microsoft News Center and this Wednesday post on The MSN Blog. Watch the video below to get a look at the technology, people and passion behind msnNOW:

Hotmail’s spam protection is the best in the business. Our years of improvements in Hotmail’s SmartScreen technology have led to record low rates of spam in the inbox (SITI), and our customers can tell the difference. We’ve driven SITI down below 3 percent for a typical Hotmail inbox, and, more importantly, we’ve kept the number there. For the rest of this story, read this Monday post on the Inside Windows Live Blog.

Now in Marketplace: An improved Facebook app. App updates are always welcome events. But when the app is Facebook, it’s news. We’re happy to report that version 2.3 of the official Facebook app just showed up in Marketplace, and it features many noteworthy tweaks and upgrades. You’ll find changes across the board: Improved panorama and profile designs, better news feed performance and navigation, new filters, and much much more. Below is a screenshot of the improved Facebook app:

6114_FacebookFakePano10_551517FF

Also new in Marketplace – Carbon for Windows Phone. Next at Microsoft Editor Steve Clayton reports, “It’s been a long time coming but Carbon for Windows Phone is now available. I’ve been using it for a while now thanks to Moe and it’s the slickest of all the Twitter clients I’ve used. It makes great use of Live Tiles, it’s fast and it has a great metro look. It also has multi account support, read later and inline images..and the developers promise push notifications very soon. Oh and threaded direct messages is a welcome feature too.” Check out the screenshot of Carbon below:

Carbon for WP

Nokia Lumia’s color runs more than skin deep. In this Thursday post, Next at Microsoft Editor Steve Clayton highlights and extols the virtues and sheer beauty of the Nokia Lumia 800. “I’m currently sporting a Cyan Lumia 800, bought in part as a statement against the sea of black rectangles that currently dominate the smartphone market.” Take a gander at the screenshot of the Lumia 800 below:

Nokia Lumia

Xbox 360 system update rolling out. Starting Thursday, a new mandatory Xbox LIVE update rolls out. If you are signed into LIVE already, you may be signed out and asked to accept the update and you’ll be back online in a few moments. This update will increase performance and is part of our continued effort to provide the best possible Xbox LIVE experience. Read this Thursday post on Xbox LIVE’s Major Nelson for more detail.

Data visualization reaches new heights with Layerscape. Microsoft Research has just released a new way to convey earth-science concepts. It’s called Layerscape, a data visualization engine that was originally developed as WorldWide Telescope (WWT), an astronomical observatory housed within your PC. WWT was and is a wonderful tool for exploring the heavens, but WWT has expanded beyond astronomy, adding, among other things, a careful construction of the Earth, textured with fine-scale imagery courtesy of Bing Maps. Want more detail? Read this Thursday post on the Software Enabled Earth Blog.

That’s a wrap for this edition of Weekend Reading! Thanks for stopping by The Official Microsoft Blog!

Posted by Jeff Meisner
Editor, The Official Microsoft Blog