Weekend Reading, May 11 Edition: ‘New’ Bing Unveiled, App/Device News from Windows Phone and Tell Mom She Rocks with Skype

It was a busy week for the company, as Bing announced some exciting new features in their most significant update since they launched three years ago. We heard about a great new Windows Phone from Samsung and a very cool new augmented reality app from Nokia. And, of course, Mother’s Day approaches, so some advice from Skype on how to make the day special for mom.

The “New” Bing Unveiled: Transforming Search from Finding to Doing. On Thursday, the Bing team held an event in San Francisco to showcase the “new” Bing, a major update to the Bing Search engine, which includes a revamped UI and deeper integration with social media to help people spend less time searching and more time doing. The team introduced three major updates to Bing. Below is a screen shot of the new Bing.

  • Snapshot is a new column on the page that brings forth relevant information and services related to your search so you can take action quickly. Maps, restaurant reservations and other common tasks surface there.
  • Sidebar is a new feature that bringing in social signals to help you to take action based on the advice of friends and experts. When you search, Sidebar will look at your friends who might know something about you’re interested in. You can post a question and include Web links to get input from the friends Bing suggests, and friends can respond on Facebook or Bing, offering recommendations to help with the search.
  • A redesigned user interface to help make core search results experience cleaner, simpler and more relevant.

You can see an on-demand version of the presentation or read more about the release. The updates will be rolled out in the coming weeks. You can also sign up to be notified when the new Bing is available. 

The Force (and Xbox 360) is with Many of You. That strange noise you’ve been hearing may be light saber battles coming from your neighbor’s living room. Yesterday, the NPD Group released data on the gaming industry, and for the 16th straight month, Xbox 360 was the top-selling console in the U.S. with over 236,000 units sold in April. Xbox 360 also had seven of the top 10 best-selling gaming titles, including “Kinect Star Wars,” which was the number one game title in the country.

4G LTE Samsung Focus 2 Coming to AT&T May 20. Exciting news for fans of the Samsung Focus. A new version of the popular Windows Phone will be available May 20 from AT&T. Available in a striking pearl white, the phone’s biggest new feature may be its ability to work on AT&T’s new LTE network, offering very fast network speeds. And at a very reasonable US$49.99 with a two-year service agreement, the phone offers great value. See more photos and information about the Samsung 2 on the Microsoft News Center, and read a review from Microsoft’s Ben Rudolph.

Samsung Focus 2 available from AT&T May 20.

 Nokia City Lens for Lumia Windows Phones. Owners of the new line of Nokia Windows Phones – the 710, 800 and 900 – can now check out the augmented reality app Nokia City Lens. The augmented reality app gives you an annotated display of all the places around you via the phone’s camera display. A great way to find a nearby restaurant or store quickly and easily.

Don’t Forget – Sunday is Mother’s Day. In the U.S. and many countries around the world, this Sunday is Mother’s Day, so don’t forget to do something extra special for the moms in your life this weekend. Our friends at Skype can help if you’re looking for a great way to send something special to your mom, especially if she’s far away. Visit the “Say it with Skype” page on Facebook or Skype.com, and you can create a custom video card to tell your mom just how great she is. And bonus – Skype is also donating $1 to Save the Children for every video card sent.

Making a Difference – Teacher Appreciation Day. Last Wednesday was Teacher Appreciation Day here in the U.S., a great time to recognize those teachers that made a difference in your life and remember how critical great teachers are to the well-being of our children and society.

Microsoft Commits to Carbon Neutrality. Kevin Turner, Chief Operating Officer for Microsoft, announced in a blog post this week that by July 1, Microsoft will be carbon neutral across the company’s direct operations including data centers, software development labs, air travel, and office buildings. The company is also making each business unit accountable for the carbon they generate – creating incentives for greater efficiency along with a new, internal carbon fee. 

That’s it for this week’s Weekend Reading. Don’t forget to call your mom, and have a great weekend.