In this edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got the launch of Windows 8 and Microsoft Surface, gearing up for Monday’s big Windows Phone 8 event, plus Forza Horizon arrives and Halo 4 sweetens the pot.

Windows 8 arrives. Microsoft yesterday announced the global availability of its popular Windows operating system, Windows 8. Beginning today, consumers and businesses worldwide will be able to experience all that Windows 8 has to offer, including a beautiful new user interface and a wide range of applications with the grand opening of the Windows Store. In her Blogging Windows post, Windows reimagined, Tami Reller, corporate vice president and chief financial officer of Windows and Windows Live, talks about events around the world and the “no compromise” experience of Windows 8. Head on over to the Microsoft News Center for the press release, videos and images. Below, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announces the availability of Windows 8 at the Windows 8 launch event at Pier 57 in New York.

Microsoft Surface now available at Microsoft retail stores. Today, Microsoft announced that the new Microsoft Surface is now available for purchase at all Microsoft retail, holiday and online stores in the United States and Canada. Designed to be the ultimate stage for Windows RT, Surface is unique and represents exceptional value, providing an immersive entertainment experience and a foundation for getting things done. Watch the Surface launch event on demand and get more details at Microsoft News Center. Below, Windows Division President Steven Sinofsky, left, and Panos Panay, general manager for Microsoft Surface, introduce Microsoft Surface as it makes its much-anticipated debut on Thursday in New York.

Big, cool stuff coming from Windows Phone on October 29. As many of you know, we are landing in San Francisco on Oct. 29 to showcase some new things from Windows Phone. For those that can’t join us in person, no need to worry! The Windows Phone team invites you to tune in for a live webcast here, all from the comfort of your couch, cubicle or coffee table. We hope you can join us. See you on the 29th!

MSN for Windows 8 arrives this week. As of Wednesday, people running Windows 8 could experience MSN in a brand new way. Designed exclusively for Windows 8, the all new MSN will be the first thing you experience when you launch Internet Explorer 10. The new MSN gives you a place where you can be informed, explore and let your curiosity reign. At first glance, you will notice MSN looks different. The new MSN is clean, simple and built for touch. Get more of the story and see a cool demo video on the MSN Blog.

Announcing the Halo 4 War Games Pass. With the highly anticipated launch of “Halo 4” on Nov. 6 less than two weeks away, Microsoft and 343 Industries on Wednesday unveiled that there will be more content to come in the months post-launch, and the “Halo 4” War Games Map Pass is your ticket to getting it all at a 15 percent discount. Stoking the excitement for launch, 343 Industries also premiered the gameplay launch trailer for “Halo 4,” available now on Halo Waypoint. The “Halo 4” War Games Map Pass confirms your access to three War Games – get details from Major Nelson.

Forza Horizon houses my dream garage. Forza Horizon is here. Your favorite bands and cars in the same place. The latest behind-the-scenes video features BBC Radio DJ Rob da Bank talking about curation of the soundtrack with a festival inspiration. In this Next at Microsoft post, Steve Clayton writes, “Talking of favorite cars, I’ll be turning the key on these epic motors this evening on my Xbox 360 – it’s as if the Forza team tapped in to my conscience to find all the cars I love and put them in one virtual garage.” Watch the behind-the-scenes video in the blog post and be sure to check out Steve’s personal Forza Horizon slideshow.

Office 365 University for Higher-Education Students. On Oct. 19, we introduced a new offering for university and college students called Office 365 University. Available in the first quarter of 2013, Office 365 University will be offered online, at retail locations and at Microsoft Stores in 52 markets worldwide. Now eligible students can buy Office University 2010 or Office University for Mac 2011 and receive a free subscription to Office 365 University when it becomes available. See 10 reasons students will love Office 365 University in the Office News blog.

Beyond column filters – slicers on tables. Slicers were first introduced in Excel 2010 and made filtering PivotTables as simple as clicking a button. We’ve taken the goodness of slicers but moved it beyond just PivotTables - with Excel 2013 you can now create slicers on any table! And, as you’ll see throughout this article, all of this works in a browser too using Excel Web App. John Campbell, lead program manager for the Excel Web App team, demonstrates using a data set showing horror novels to help you get into a spooky mood for Halloween. See how adding slicers ups the experience in this Excel Blog tutorial.

And in case you missed it earlier this week… video of Bill Gates on Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and Surface and Xbox introduces a new entertainment experience.

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

Posted by Jeff Meisner
Editor, The Official Microsoft Blog