Weekend Reading: Nov. 9th Edition – Apps for PCs and Windows Phone 8, Windows Phone 8 Preorders Begin

In this edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got stories on apps – find ‘em, get ‘em, build ‘em – including new favorites for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8, plus a peek behind the scenes of a Microsoft Store opening.

AT&T sales begin today, Verizon Wireless taking preorders now. Great news for AT&T and Verizon Wireless subscribers: AT&T announced that the Nokia Lumia 920 and Lumia 820 devices would be available starting today, and Verizon announced yesterday that it is taking preorders for the Windows Phone 8X by HTC and the Nokia Lumia 822 starting today at 1 a.m. EST. That was a few hours ago, so go here to snag your shiny new Windows Phone.  For details and links, head over to the Windows Phone Blog.

May the birds be with you: Angry Birds Star Wars is now in the Store. First Cut the Rope, then Angry Birds Space released for Windows Phone 8. Now Rovio’s highly-anticipated mash up between pigs and Princess Leia, has launched worldwide—including for Windows Phone 8.  Angry Birds Star Wars, which costs 99 cents in the Store and requires Windows Phone 8, reimagines Angry Birds characters as the Star Wars cast, with a storyline straight from the beloved space opera—from the deserts of Tatooine to the depths of the Pig Star. Your task: Dodge Imperial Pigtroopers, laser turrets, sand people, and the dark side the Force on the way to the ultimate showdown against Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Pigs. Check out the fun trailer below that Rovio created for a taste, and see what else is in store at the Windows Phone Blog.

What’s new in the Windows Phone Store. The official arrival of Windows Phone 8 brings with it some great new upgrades to the Windows Phone Store, including new ways for finding and buying apps, and new options for managing what apps or games your kids can get their hands on. For a rundown of the highlights, including a Collections view and new personalized recommendations, head over to the Windows Phone Blog. The image below shows the Collections view, which helps you quickly drill down to what you’re looking for.

Microsoft retail stores maturation: Going behind the scenes. Fans flocked to the opening of a new Microsoft retail store in Corte Madera, Calif., to get their hands on the new Surface and Windows 8 PCs. Before the doors opened, a group of beaming, cyan-clad Microsoft retail store employees gathered near the front windows, which were covered by an opaque curtain. After months of work, it was almost time. Head over to the Microsoft News Center to see the Corte Madera store opening, one of many at Microsoft in recent weeks, and read about the company’s ongoing expansion of its brick-and-mortar retail stores program.

Reimagining Windows.com. Windows.com is the primary destination for all things Windows. Whether you want to buy a new tablet, download the newest version of Internet Explorer, explore desktop themes, learn how to do more with your PC, or get support, Windows.com has the information you need. We’ve been around since Windows 7 and, with over 250 million unique visitors per month, it’s one of the most trafficked sites on the Internet. Like Windows itself, we’ve reimagined Windows.com for Windows 8 and Windows RT. This Blogging Windows post outlines some of the exciting new features of the site and gives you a little peek behind the scenes of the team that created the new Windows.com experience.

8 Ways to search on Windows 8: the Maps app. We’re back with an app that will be your go-to app when plotting your day – the Maps app, powered by Bing Maps. The Maps app makes it easy to find the places you’re looking for and helps you get there faster. Quickly pinpoint locations, get directions, see traffic conditions and more— all designed to be easily navigable with touch.  To see how it works, watch this demo from Stefan Weitz over at the Bing Search Blog.

Right brain or left brain? Great apps keep pouring in. Next at Microsoft editor Steve Clayton has been busy installing apps onto his new Windows Phone and his new Surface. Angry Birds Star Wars for Windows Phone 8 definitely made the list. Steve shares a few other outstanding apps that don’t have the profile of the Rovio smash hit. One such app is Composite for Windows Phone from James Alliban. Composite enables you to “remix” your surroundings to create artistic compositions by painting pictures using the live video stream from the front and back facing cameras. Check out the composite images below, made using a Windows Phone. Feeding the other side of your brain (or your kid’s brain) is the official Khan Academy app. For those not familiar with the Khan Academy, it’s an online phenomenon that enables you to learn almost anything. For free.  Learn more about these great apps and others at Next at Microsoft.

Internet Explorer 10 wins (again) on performance. Internet Explorer 10 is fast and fluid, and built from the ground up for real-world performance. Growing evidence shows Internet Explorer as the fastest Web browser on Windows 8. Earlier this week, New Relic published additional evidence showing that Internet Explorer 10 is the fastest Windows browser. On Sept. 24, Tom’s Hardware ran a story on RoboHornet, and found that “Internet Explorer 10 smashes the competition, performing 37% better than even the latest version of Google’s Chrome.”  There’s more. See details and graphs from these independent reports in the Nov. 6 edition of the Exploring IE blog.

Announcing the Windows 8 Apps for Good contest. Do you have an idea to help people better track their energy usage? Do you want to help students learn math or science? Have an idea about how to track online donations? Show us how Windows 8 apps can help the world and you can win up to US$15,000. To celebrate the launch of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, Microsoft announced a new contest to encourage developers to create apps that positively impact the world around them. To learn how to enter, head over to the Corporate Citizenship Blog, and best of luck!

Visio when and where you need it. If you’ve downloaded the new Visio Preview, then you probably noticed that your installation experience is quite a bit different than in any previous version of Visio. These changes aren’t just cosmetic, they’re part of our strategy to align with the overall Office vision to bring the rich applications that you know and love into the future as an integrated part of our Software + Services offering. Take a look at this Visio Blog post, where we explain what our goals were, what we did, and what it means for you in your everyday interactions in the new Visio.

And in case you missed it … The Biggest Entertainment Event of 2012: ‘Halo 4′ Launched on Tuesday.

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