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

What’s new for gamers in Windows Phone 8. Games—who doesn’t love them? You play them when you’re happy, when you’re sad, when you’re bored and even (for better or worse) when you’re busy. A huge part of owning a smartphone is about games and gaming, and the Windows Phone team has sought to continue delivering the very best in gaming experiences. Alex Weingart is a program manager on the Games team and in this Wednesday Windows Phone Blog post, he takes you on a whirlwind tour of game-related highlights in our newest release. When you’re done cruising those feature highlights, check out these 5 addictive indie games for Windows Phone. 

The next version of Bing Desktop now available. Bing is known for its iconic homepage images. The photos serve to highlight the beauty of our world with the goal of sparking your curiosity and sense of exploration. Over the years, many of you have let us know that you wanted an automated way to enjoy the Bing home page images as a Windows desktop background. With yesterday’s release of Bing Desktop v1.1, we are updating Bing Desktop to make it even easier for you to do just that. We are expanding support to all people using Windows XP and higher and adding support for an additional 4 languages. For the rest of the story, head over to the yesterday’s post on the Bing Search Blog.

Bing Desktop

Skype social good – making life better through technology. After Tony Bates, president of Skype at Microsoft, finished speaking on stage at the Social Innovation Summit in Silicon Valley last week, he said he found himself reflecting on both the number of innovative and passionate people dedicated to changing our world for the better and the role technology is playing to drive these changes within our global society. The team at Skype has always believed in the power of technology to bring the world closer together by enabling people everywhere to share experiences. In this post on The Big Blog, Bates highlights some of the social innovations Skype is involved with, including Skype in the classroom. Watch the video below to see the simple and powerful way Skype in the classroom is helping to open the minds of students across the globe.

Office webinar: Top 10 tips of the year. What did you find out about Office this year that you like? A new tool? A shortcut? Office guru and webinar master Doug Thomas tells you our favorites and shows you how they work. Check out the list and an on-demand version of Thomas’ Tuesday webinar on the Office Blog and learn a few new tricks.

Running Windows 8 Pro? Get the Windows 8 Media Center Pack for free! In case you haven’t heard the news – the Windows 8 Media Center Pack is available free for a limited time. Until Jan. 31, 2013 you can get a free product key that will allow you to add the Windows 8 Media Center Pack to an existing Windows 8 Pro installation. Find out how to get yours in Monday’s post on the Extreme Windows Blog.

Reputation Institute’s 2012 CSR RepTrak 100 report ranks Microsoft #1 for Corporate Social Responsibility. On Tuesday, the Reputation Institute, one of the world’s leading reputation management consultant firms, released its 2012 CSR RepTrak™ 100 report naming the companies with the best reputations for corporate social responsibility around the world. The study surveyed people around the world to measure their perceptions of companies’ behavior in three key areas: Citizenship, Governance and Workplace. Microsoft was ranked first in the category of Governance and also received the top ranking overall. Get the rest of the story in Tuesday’s edition of Microsoft on the Issues.

And in case you missed it … 12 milestone Microsoft moments of 2012 and Microsoft increases production and expands retail distribution for Microsoft Surface with Windows RT

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