In this edition of Weekend Reading, Microsoft releases its interactive Holiday Look Book, where to get your hands on a Windows Phone 8 device now, plus Jessica Alba and Gwen Stefani share their Windows Phone 8 Start screen.

The Microsoft 2012 Holiday Look Book. Kick off your holiday shopping with the 2012 Holiday Look Book, a shareable, shoppable, touch-enabled gift guide, featuring a collection of top products from Microsoft and its partners. Inspiration for each of the scenes within the Look Book came from conversations with product designers themselves, giving you a never before seen view of the hottest tech products of the season. See exclusive images of Halo 4, the Nokia Lumia 920, the Wedge Touch Mouse and more in the 2012 Holiday Lookbook.

Look Book

Verizon Windows Phone 8 sales begin. Plus: a cheat sheet for US shoppers. Verizon Wireless had promised its new Windows Phones would arrive before Thanksgiving. On Wednesday, the company made good on its pact, announcing the Nov. 15 availability of Windows Phone 8X by HTC and the Nokia Lumia 822. Pick one up online or from one of Verizon's retail outlets. And keep in mind that for a limited time, Verizon is the only U.S. carrier offering Windows Phone 8’s cool new Data Sense feature. For the rest of this story, including a list of what phones each carrier is offering, head over to the Windows Phone blog.

New Windows Phone 8 ads debut with Jessica Alba, Gwen Stefani. The Windows Phone 8 ad campaign kicked off on Wednesday with spots featuring actress Jessica Alba and singer Gwen Stefani. In his Wednesday Windows Phone Blog post, Michael Stroh invites you to take a look and tell him what you think. Jessica Alba, a mother of two, talks about how she uses the new Kid’s Corner feature; and Gwen Stefani talks up using Skype and Office on her Windows Phone 8. What’s on a celebrity’s Start screen? Tune in below and stay tuned for more surprise celebs.

European customers embrace Windows 8. During the past year we’ve been talking about what Windows 8 means for businesses. Now that Windows 8 is officially available across the globe, so many of our customers are seeing first-hand how Windows 8 can benefit their organizations. This week, Senior Director of Business Planning for Windows Erwin Visser blogs from Europe. He says, “For many of us in the industry, hearing about customer concepts and deployments are beneficial in really bringing the technology to life and will help you realize how these new products and technology can be used to create a competitive differentiation in your organization.” Take a look at some of Erwin’s favorite examples in his Windows for your Business blog post.

Behind the scenes of Fresh Paint on Windows 8. A few weeks ago, Next at Microsoft Editor Steve Clayton got the chance to chat with Ira Snyder, general manager of Fresh Paint. If you've not yet had the chance to try Fresh Paint, the new painting app for Windows 8, it’s available for free in the Windows Store and has over a 4 star rating (out of 5). In short, it’s a revolutionary paint application that has a level of realism that has to be seen to be believed (see image below). Steve blogged about it back in August but having played with it more, and seen his daughter fall in love with it, he wanted to know some more about the magic behind the application. Why does Steve think Fresh Paint is (and will continue to be) such a hit? Find out here.

Fresh paint

Craig Mundie: How tomorrow’s technologies will shape your world. Craig Mundie recently visited students and faculty at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Texas at Austin to share his thoughts on the future of computing, as well as to hear the thoughts and ideas of the next generation of technology innovators. This is an annual trip for Craig, and if you’re familiar with what he has done in past years, you’ll know that these college engagements offer a great opportunity to hear from him regarding how technology is transforming and what our interactions with technology may look like in the future. Get more of the story on Next at Microsoft and catch a glimpse of where technology is heading in the video below.

Taking action against bullying: the power of standing up together. As a professional athlete and rugby World Cup champion, Ben Cohen, founder and chairman of the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation, thought he knew what his future would hold. His Uncle George had also been on a World Cup team, winning the football (soccer) honor for England in 1966. Ben assumed sports would continue to define him. Then, in early 2011, just after being honored as Player of the Year, Ben hung up his boots and retired for a cause, founding the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation. On Wednesday, Ben shared his inspirational story in the Microsoft on the Issues blog. Read Ben’s story here and find out how Microsoft is helping others learn how to protect kids online.

Put the power of Outlook 2013 behind your Outlook.com e-mail. With Outlook 2013, it's easier than ever to connect to your personal e-mail accounts that support the rich capabilities of Exchange Active Sync – including your new @outlook.com e-mail address. No longer do you need the Outlook Connector (OLC) add-in. Outlook 2013 uses newly-added support for the rich Exchange Active Sync (EAS) protocol that has become the gold standard used by smartphones and other mobile devices. EAS will sync mail, calendar, contacts and tasks from your Outlook.com account! Head on over to the Outlook Blog to learn how in this easy tutorial.

And in case you missed it … Xbox LIVE turns 10: a decade of entertainment!

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