The Official Microsoft Blog

News & Perspectives

December, 2012

  • Microsoft Rings in the New Year with More Retail Store Locations on the Way

    It’s been a momentous year for the Microsoft retail stores. We opened 51 new Full-line and Specialty stores, including our first international stores in Edmonton, Burnaby, Vancouver and Toronto, Canada in just the last year.

    Before I dive into what lies ahead, I wanted to reflect on 2012. We know our customers’ shopping needs greatly differ, whether it’s a teen who wants the hottest video game or a parent who wants to ensure their family is safe online. Our store associates work hard to personalize every customer’s experience in making recommendations, and helping with PC setups and other services, allowing customers to walk out the door with a product that’s ready to run. We know our store associates are making an impact when our customers continually express appreciation for how our stores offer the opportunity to interact with Microsoft products that improve the way they live, work and play.    

    We have always said that we will adjust our strategy, and open additional stores to deliver the choice, value and service our Microsoft customers have come to expect.

  • Daily Update, Dec. 21st – More Must-Have Apps and Special Holiday Offers

    The holidays are officially in full swing, and today the Windows Experience Blog is featuring five festive apps to get you in the spirit of the season and help you make the most of your celebrations with family and friends. Make sure to also check out the Window’s Store’s special holiday offers to save on select apps, subscriptions and services.

    Posted by Jeff Meisner
    Editor, The Official Microsoft Blog

  • Weekend Reading: Dec. 21st Edition – Bing Puts the Spotlight on Images, Xbox Windows Phone Favorites on Sale and the Year in Review on MSN

    In this edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got stories on the new Image Search design in Bing, Windows Phone game deals, and some cool things Microsoft is doing to support global language and help preserve disappearing languages.

    Modern image search arrives on Bing. A few months ago, we launched a new more modern experience for Bing Image Search. We cut out the white space and clutter to make room for big, beautiful pictures from across the Web. Since then, we have kept on working to make pictures shine on Bing. On Tuesday, we started rolling out a brand new way to make it faster or simpler to explore imagery on Bing. Take a look at the new design in the “cute puppies” search image below, and see more examples in the Tuesday post from the Search Blog. You’ll also want to check out this post on Kristin of The Cuisinerd, who used Bing image search to gather photos for her snappy Bing in the Holidays gift-buying guide.

    Xbox cuts prices on popular Windows Phone games to 99 cents. Xbox is celebrating the New Year by slashing prices on several popular Windows Phone games to just 99 cents. Check out the list on the Windows Phone Blog — there isn’t a dud among them.

  • Daily Update, Dec. 20th – On the First Day of Christmas, the Windows Store Gave to Me…Twelve Apps for the Holidays

    To help you celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, the Windows Store presents to you … 12 apps available to download for your holiday merrymaking. The eBay app is a great way to get your 12 drummers drumming, or check out the Sports Illustrated app and read about the quest for 5 Super Bowl rings, and if you’re in the market for a new house, Trulia has got you covered (partridge in a pear tree not included).

    Head on over to the Microsoft News Center and check out the app slideshow. Below is a screenshot of the Cocktail Flow app.


  • Daily Update, Dec. 19th – Better Watch Out, Better Not Cry… Microsoft Works with NORAD to Track Santa on Christmas Eve

    Two stories out of Microsoft today:

    Looks like Microsoft made the nice list this year. The company is working with North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) to help power the annual Santa Tracker using NORAD’s powerful global radars and Microsoft technology, including Bing Maps, Windows Azure, and apps for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. Once upon a time children would have to take their parents’ word that Santa Claus was on his way (but will only stop at their house if they go to sleep already). Now, using a website, a mobile app, or by placing a phone call to NORAD, children can determine Santa Claus’s approximate global position.

    Also, the information technology forecast for the next two years calls for increasing cloudiness – cloud computing job opportunities, that is.

  • The Midweek Download: Dec. 19th Edition – Microsoft Researcher Makes Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 List

    In this edition of The Midweek Download, we’ve got stories on Forbes-honored Microsoft Researcher Vipul Goyal, a new Windows Phone app design challenge and news on Internet Explorer 10.

    Heady recognition for young researcher. For a man of 29, Vipul Goyal (pictured right), a researcher at Microsoft Research India, already possesses a gaudy list of academic and professional achievements. He has  a Ph.D. from UCLA. As a student there, he won a Microsoft Research graduate fellowship. His cryptographic research has been widely published at top conferences, and his work has attracted the attention of popular science publications. And, on Dec. 17, Goyal was named to the Science and Healthcare section of Forbes magazine’s annual 30 Under 30 list, which features exceptional young people who are reinventing the world. Read about Goyal’s reaction in yesterday’s blog post on Inside Microsoft Research.

    Windows Phone ‘App to the Future’ design challenge. Although the Windows Phone Developer Blog is primarily a destination for developers, we all know that design is important. So on Dec. 13, the Windows Phone developer team made a call for designer talent.

  • Daily Update, Dec. 18th – Check Out these Slick New Windows 8 Pro Devices

    Three stories out of Microsoft today:

    First, when it comes to helping employees be productive, few investments have more potential this year than a new PC with Windows 8 Pro. In addition to the beautiful, fast and fluid user interface, Windows 8 brings together the sites, people, apps and information that you care about most right from your personalized Start screen. It makes it easy to multitask and switch between screens, and it provides an incredible choice of new hardware to make for a compelling and highly personalized computing experience. Plus, hardware released for the new operating system is screaming fast. Head on over to the Microsoft News Center and check out this slideshow of new Windows 8 devices. Below is an image of the Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T.

  • Daily Update, Dec. 17th – Introducing New Xbox SmartGlass Experiences for Sports Fans

    Now on Xbox, sports fans have a whole new way to connect with fellow fans and compete on Xbox LIVE with the new Sports Picks app. You can make picks, compete with your Xbox LIVE friends and fight for domination of the leaderboard. With the Sports Picks app, we’ve also added a new experience for Xbox SmartGlass, so you can do all of this on your tablet or phone without missing a beat of the game on your TV through Xbox 360. For those of you planning to take in a live sporting event from ESPN or catch the replay of last night’s NBA game on your Xbox, we’ve introducing all-new Xbox SmartGlass experiences to accompany ESPN and NBA Game Time.

    Xbox SmartGlass Apps for Sports Fans

  • Weekend Reading: Dec. 14th Edition – Holiday Travel Apps and Games for Windows Phone 8

    In this edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got stories about bringing Bing home page images to your desktop, the story behind Bing’s home page, plus using Windows Phone 8 to ensure happy holiday travels.

    To grandma’s house we go—with these holiday travel apps. ‘Tis the season for braving airports, highways and hotels on our way to visit family and friends. But the right Windows Phone apps can change the way we plan for these trips, and how we enjoy them. Find great handpicked options in the just-published Winter Travel Collection. Pictured below is FlightAware (free) – an impressive app that brings live flight tracking to your Windows Phone. Find more great apps to help you create a bon voyage in this Thursday post on the Windows Phone Blog.

    FlightAware App

  • Daily Update, Dec. 13th – VIDEO: A Look Back at 12 Milestone Moments at Microsoft in 2012

    There’s no question that it’s been a momentous year at Microsoft. The company introduced the world to Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, announced its family of Surface PCs, showcased a new version of Microsoft Office and released “Halo 4,” keeping up a steady rhythm of advancements across its most popular products for individuals and businesses throughout the year. Check out the video below to catch a glimpse of some of Microsoft’s biggest highlights of 2012.

  • The Midweek Download: Dec. 12th Edition – Microsoft Surface Production and Retail Distribution Increased

    In this edition of The Midweek Download, we’ve got stories on Microsoft Surface, Kinect inventor Alex Kipman winning the Inventor of the Year Award from the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation and more.

    Microsoft increased production and expands retail distribution for Surface. On Tuesday, Microsoft announced plans to make Microsoft Surface available at additional retailers as soon as mid-December. In addition, the company announced the extension of the Microsoft holiday stores, including the transition of several of the stores into permanent Microsoft retail outlets. “The public reaction to Surface has been exciting to see. We’ve increased production and are expanding the ways in which customers can interact with, experience and purchase Surface,” said Panos Panay, general manager, Microsoft Surface.


  • Give the Gift of Cool with Microsoft This Holiday Season

    This is an exciting holiday for Microsoft, with new Surface tablets and Windows 8 PCs, Windows Phone 8 devices and experiences for Xbox 360 with Kinect and more arriving just in time for the season. Check out the four videos below to see great gift ideas for everyone on your list.

    Give the gift of cool tech to everyone on your list. Microsoft's Ben Reed highlights some of our favorite items for the holiday season, including the Surface tablet with the Fresh Paint app, the Wedge Touch Mouse and Mobile Keyboard, and Skype gift cards.

  • NORAD Tracks Santa with the Help of Partners

    Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Capt. Jeff Davis, U.S. Navy and Director, NORAD and U.S. Northern Command Public Affairs. For more than 50 years, NORAD has helped children around the world track Santa during his Christmas journey, and this year Microsoft is partnering with NORAD to make following the big red sleigh easier than ever. The Santa Tracker tool is built on the Microsoft Windows Azure cloud computing platform and Bing Maps, and anxious kids can even track Kris Kringle on Windows Phone and Windows 8 apps.

    It’s hard to believe it all started with a typo.

    A program renowned the world over – one that brings in thousands of volunteers, prominent figures such as the First Lady of the United States, and one that has been going on for more than five decades – all started as a misprint.

    That error ran in a local Colorado Springs newspaper back in 1955 after a local department store printed an advertisement with an incorrect phone number that children could use to “call Santa.” Except that someone goofed. Or someone mistook a three for an eight. Maybe elves broke into the newspaper and changed the number. We’ll never know.

    But somehow, the number in the advertisement changed, and instead of reaching the “Santa” on call for the local department store, it rang at the desk of the Crew Commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center, the organization that would one day become the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or “NORAD.”

  • Daily Update, Dec. 11th – A New Look for the Bing Social Sidebar

    Today, Bing is rolling out a new streamlined design for our social sidebar feature that makes it easier to find people who are relevant to your search based on what they’ve shared, publically blogged or tweeted about. In a glance you can now see what friends, experts and enthusiasts from leading networks including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Klout have shared. While the sidebar will remain off to the right of search results – allowing you to decide when and how to interact with it – we’ve made some changes to the design. The Bing Search Blog has the whole story.

    With the growth of Windows 8, we’re seeing more and more people choose SkyDrive as the easiest way to store and share their photos, documents, and other files. Starting today, we’re bringing even more value to SkyDrive and Xbox customers with a new SkyDrive app for Xbox 360. This means your favorite content is now only one click away, whether you are using the web, your PC, your phone, or now, even your big screen TV.


  • Meet the ‘Halo 4’ Engineers Delivering ‘30 Seconds of Fun’ – Early and Often

    On Dec. 7, Halo 4 won two awards at the Spike TV Video Game Awards – Best Graphics and Best Xbox 360 Game. And on Sunday, Halo 4 won three more at the Inside Gaming Awards, including the top prize – Game of the Year – as well as Best Competitive Multiplayer and Best Sound Design.

    Given the big weekend news, we thought now might be a good time to resurface a Nov. 5 Microsoft News Center feature story profiling a few members of the engineering team at 343 Industries, the driving force behind the fourth installment in the hit Halo franchise.

    Posted by Jeff Meisner
    Editor, The Official Microsoft Blog

    It happens early and often in every “Halo” game: the ‘30 seconds of fun.’

    That phrase refers to the heart-thumping period when players risk pixelated life and limb to take on teeming hordes of enemies. The ‘30 seconds of fun’ mantra began with Bungie, the game studio that created the first five games of the “Halo” franchise.

    But “Halo” has always delivered a rich story alongside the action; the game’s universe has spawned comic books and New York Times bestselling novels. “Halo” takes the Goldilocks approach to gaming: it doesn’t exhaust you with long storytelling animations nor numb you with nonstop battles. It finds a middle ground: It’s just right.

  • Tweets from Last Night: The Microsoft and Access Hollywood Soiree

    Last night in Venice, CA, Microsoft and Access Hollywood hosted a holiday party that showcased the hottest tech gifts from Microsoft this holiday. Our media and celebrity guests experienced Surface tablets, Windows 8 PCs, Windows Phones, hot titles for Xbox 360 and more holiday goodies. You can find information about all of these products at

    Here is what some of the attendees had to say, via Twitter:

  • Daily Update, Dec. 7th – Internet Explorer Helps Bring Innovative Custom Shoe Site to Life

    Sneakers are like web experiences: Both are better with a touch of color and creativity.

    A great example is the Internet Explorer Team’s new collaboration with PMK Design Labs, an interactive shoe design site that lets you personalize your sneakers using the power of HTML5 and touch functionality.


  • Weekend Reading: Dec. 7th Edition – Register Now for the Halo 4 Infinity Challenge & Windows Phone 8 Makes Life a Little Bit Better

    In this edition of Weekend Reading, we have stories on how to avoid getting “Grinched” by online criminals, registration opening for the Halo 4 Infinity Challenge, and how from typing to gaming to running a family, Windows Phone is your friend.

    Virgin Gaming and Xbox 360 team up to launch the Halo 4 Infinity Challenge. Virgin Gaming, Xbox 360 and 343 Industries are joining forces to launch the “Halo 4 Infinity Challenge” on Xbox LIVE starting Dec. 17, bringing gamers the biggest and most accessible free-to-enter “Halo” tournament in the world. As of Thursday, players can register for the “Halo 4 Infinity Challenge”. Launching on Dec. 17, the free-to-enter tournament will track your personal score in War Games and the number of Spartan Ops chapters you complete on global leaderboards, giving players of different preferences and skill levels all a shot at the more than 2,800 prizes. Head over to yesterday’s post on Major Nelson’s blog for all the details.

    Avoid the holiday online shopping ‘Grinch.’ It’s no secret more and more consumers are turning to the Internet to find those perfect holiday gifts. For most, the hustle and bustle of this time of year only makes online shopping even more attractive. According to a recent comScore report, Cyber Monday 2012 marked the heaviest online spending day in history, with Internet sales totaling $1.465 billion, up 17 percent from 2011.

  • Daily Update, Dec. 6th – 'Twas Just Weeks Before Christmas and the Choice is Clear, Don't Allow Yourself to Get Scroogled this Year

    Last week we launched the “Scroogled” campaign to educate average consumers about what Google has done with their shopping site. Instead of showing you the most relevant shopping search results for the video game you’re looking to buy your kid, Google Shopping now decides what to show you based partially on how much the merchant selling the product has paid them. For the rest of this story, head on over to the Bing Search Blog and watch the video below.

  • The Midweek Download: Dec. 5th Edition – Create Cool Apps with the New TouchDevelop Web App

    In this edition of The Midweek Download, we have stories on the TouchDevelop Web App for developers, market expansion and new game ratings in the Windows Phone Store and more.

    TouchDevelop in your browser. Are you looking for a little extra cash for the upcoming holidays? Then you might be interested in creating some cool apps to sell in the Windows Store. Or maybe you’re simply curious and want to try your hand at developing for Windows 8 and Windows Phone. In either case, the newly released TouchDevelop Web App is for you. TouchDevelop Web App is a development environment to create apps on your tablet or smartphone, without requiring a separate PC. Scripts written using TouchDevelop can access data, media and sensors on the phone, tablet and PC. The script can interact with cloud services, including storage, computing and social networks. Read more about it in this Nov. 30 Microsoft Research Connections Blog post and take a look at the video below to see how you can seriously create apps anywhere, on all your devices.

    Get Microsoft Silverlight

  • Daily Update, Dec. 4th – Imagine Cup Grants Announced

    At the Social Innovation Summit today, Microsoft announced the winners of the second annual Microsoft Imagine Cup Grants program, a three-year, $3 million competitive grant program that provides students with funding and support to help transform their projects into social enterprises or nonprofits that will address a specific social issue. The Imagine Cup Grants program is part of the Microsoft YouthSpark initiative, which aims to create opportunities for 300 million youth during the next three years. Check out this feature story on the Microsoft News Center and this post on the Microsoft Corporate Citizenship Blog. Below is a photo of Team Cipher256 of Uganda, (left to right) David Musinguzi, Aaron Tushabe, Joshua Okello, Josiah Kavuma and Joseph Kaizzi. The team received an honorable mention prize for WinSenga, a mobile application that aids midwives as they assist expectant mothers.


  • Daily Update, Dec. 3rd – Check Out moneyNOW & Take the Holiday-themed Bing it On Challenge

    Back in February, we launched msnNOW, the first site of its kind to surface the latest buzz from social networks all in one place. Today, the first MSN channel is launching NOW content, moneyNOW. moneyNOW is MSN Money’s new destination for smart, original and entertaining takes on the latest business and investing topics that are buzzing on the Web. Head on over to The MSN Blogto find out more.

    Also starting today, we’re inviting people in the U.S. to take a new holiday-themed Bing it On Challenge for a chance to win a ‘Microsoft Box of Awesome' (Windows Phone 8, Xbox 360 with Kinect, Windows 8 device) or a chance at the grand prize: a $10,000 paid trip to any place in the U.S.

  • Microsoft Research India: The Faces Behind the Fight Against TB

    The following is a post from Bill Thies, Researcher, Microsoft Research India.

    In India, I have seen first-hand the faces of those stricken by tuberculosis (TB), one of the world’s deadliest diseases. Every year, 9 million people contract TB and here in India alone, two people die every three minutes. As a researcher at Microsoft Research India, I’m interested in using technology to help solve some of the world’s most pressing societal and health challenges. In partnership with Operation ASHA, a leading provider of TB treatment in India, I’m excited to share with you today a mini-documentary that takes a personal and up-close look at a biometric system we invented and are deploying in India to amplify performance and accountability in patients and care providers.

    The concept is simple, but the impact could be immense. A fingerprint reader, a low-cost laptop and a GSM modem work together to scan a patient’s fingerprint, tracking visits and ensuring patients complete their full course of TB medication. This results in a full recovery for the patient and also prevents the spread of an even deadlier disease – drug-resistant tuberculosis. To date, the technology has enrolled more than 3,000 patients and logged more than 60,000 supervised doses in more than 40 treatment centers, spanning Delhi, Mumbai and Jaipur.