In this edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got stories on Windows 8.1, Office 365 Home Premium surpassing 1 million subscribers, the design behind Xbox One and more.

A first glimpse of Windows 8.1. Antoine Leblond, corporate vice president of Windows Program Management, on Thursday provided a "first look" at Windows 8.1 on the Windows blog. In his post, Leblond underscored that Windows 8.1 is an update to Windows 8. He gave a high-level look at the improvements and enhancements in Windows 8.1 in key areas like personalization, search, built-in apps, the Windows Store experience and cloud connectivity. Read Leblond's blog post for more details. In addition, one of the many enhancements in Windows 8.1 is a reimagined search experience that’s faster, more fluid and more powerful than ever. The Search Charm in Windows 8 already gives you a single place to search apps for answers, letting you, for example, ask your News app for the latest on E3. The Windows 8.1 modern search experience makes it even easier to find what you’re looking for, enabling you to search your own PC, the Web and your apps. Learn more over on the Bing Search Blog.

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Xbox One designed with purpose, down to the last tenth of a millimeter. Craftsmanship. Design. Refinement to the tenth of a millimeter. The Xbox One console was developed with all of these in mind to become the ultimate gaming and entertainment system. In a new Xbox Wire post, Carl Ledbetter, creative director of Industrial Design at Microsoft, and other members of the design team talk about the big ideas and small touches that went into creating something customers old and new will love. Read more about how the team achieved a design that was simple and inviting, while making sure the console’s performance was flawless. Also, some of the most enthusiastic applause during the May 21 unveiling of Xbox One came during demos of the brand-new Kinect. It’s not hard to see why when you watch the two new videos that dive into the details of the eyes, ears and brains behind the updated device. Then, be sure to check out two Xbox One related posts on The Official Microsoft Blog from Frank X. Shaw, corporate vice president of corporate communications at Microsoft – the first on how Xbox One leverages the power of the cloud and the second on how Xbox One represents the best in devices and services.

New Office is best-selling edition yet; Office 365 Home Premium passes 1 million subscribers. The Office News blog reports that the new Office is officially the best-selling edition yet, selling at an average rate of one per second. Office 365 Home Premium has also hit a milestone, passing 1 million subscribers in just more than 100 days. That’s a quicker climb to the million mark than some of the most popular services out there, as you can see in the infographic below.

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Skype and Lync: Connecting the living room to the board room. On Wednesday, we announced Skype and Lync customers around the world are now able to connect with each other from across these platforms. With Lync-Skype connectivity, Skype users will now be able to reach a broader network of colleagues, partners and customers who are using Lync, Microsoft’s unified communications platform, connecting them into organizations of all sizes. Lync provides a consistent, single client experience for presence, instant messaging, voice, video and meetings for business productivity and is owned by more than 90 of the Fortune Global 100 companies. All you need to connect with your contacts on Lync is the latest Skype client, available from Skype.com, and a Microsoft account. Connectivity is currently supported by Windows and Mac desktop clients, with more options coming soon as other clients are updated. To get the rest of this story, read Wednesday’s post on Skype’s Big Blog.

Internet Explorer helps bring stunning new views of Mount Everest to the Web. You can now experience breathtaking birds-eye views of Mount Everest using Everest: Rivers of Ice, a stunning new HTML5 website based on the explorations of mountaineer, filmmaker and photographer David Breashears. The site is the result of a partnership between Breashears and his non-profit GlacierWorks, the Internet Explorer team, Microsoft Research and the developers at Pixel Lab. Learn more about Everest: Rivers of Ice over on the Exploring IE Blog, then experience it for yourself at www.glacierworks.org.

Bring your own service: Employees want social tools at work. Nearly half of employees report that social tools at work help increase their productivity, but more than 30 percent of companies underestimate the value of these tools and often restrict their use, according to new Microsoft research released today. The survey, conducted for Microsoft by research firm Ipsos among 9,908 information workers in 32 countries, also found that 39 percent of employees feel there isn’t enough collaboration in their workplaces, and 40 percent believe social tools help foster better teamwork. More surprisingly, 31 percent said they are willing to spend their own money to buy social tools. For more on the survey and how social technologies such as Yammer can help make an organization more productive and collaborative, read this press release and this feature story over on the Microsoft News Center.

Thanks for stopping by The Official Microsoft Blog! Hope you have a great weekend!

Posted by Jeff Meisner
Editor, The Official Microsoft Blog