Weekend Reading: Nov. 30th Edition – Surface with Windows 8 Pro Pricing and Availability is Announced & Microsoft Pledges US$250 Million to Education

In this edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got the latest details on Surface with Windows 8 Pro, Microsoft’s continued support for the Partners in Learning program, plus news on Outlook.com, Xbox 360 and more fun with Windows Phone 8.

Next up for the Surface family: Surface with Windows 8 Pro pricing. It’s hard to believe it’s been just over a month since Surface with Windows RT hit the market. The response from Surface customers has been fantastic and exciting to see. In addition to sharing the terrific results that Microsoft is seeing with Windows 8 at a technology conference earlier this week, we also announced that Surface with Windows 8 Pro would be available in January 2013. On Thursday, Panos Panay, general manager of Microsoft Surface, shared a bit more detail on the Official Microsoft Blog about the growing Surface family of products and Surface with Windows 8 Pro pricing. Go here to read Panay’s full post.

Eleven million educators and counting: Microsoft renews support for Partners in Learning program. On Thursday at the Partners in Learning Global Forum in Prague, in front of over 500 of the world’s most innovative educators, Corporate Vice President of Worldwide Public Sector Laura Ipsen announced an additional US$250 million in funding to extend Partners in Learning (PiL) over the next five years. We’re renewing our pledge to Partners in Learning as a program that makes a valuable impact in the learning outcomes of hundreds of thousands of students around the world, honors a strong and growing community of educators, and underscores Microsoft’s long-term commitment to Education. To learn more about this important investment, read Laura Ipsen’s post on the Official Microsoft Blog.

Twenty-five million Outlook.com accounts and counting… Since the new Outlook.com launched in July, the positive feedback has been overwhelming. Outlook.com was recently named one of Time Magazine’s “50 Best Websites of 2012″, won PC Magazine’s Best Software and Internet Web App awards and has received a number of other accolades around the world. To date, more than 25 million of you are already actively using the new Outlook.com. Head on over to the Outlook Blog for the full story.

Xbox 360 Black Friday report. Over the holiday weekend, Xbox 360:

  • Xbox 360 sold more than 750,000 consoles in the U.S. alone –exceeding internal forecasts.
  • Xbox LIVE Gold Subscription sales increased more than 50 percent compared to last year’s Black Friday week.
  • We saw incredible activity on Xbox over the weekend. For example, on Sunday alone we had more than 14 million people on Xbox LIVE across the world, racking up more than 72 million hours of use in just one day.
  • Compared to 2011, we’ve seen a 43 percent increase in U.S. entertainment application hours logged on Xbox LIVE during the week of Black Friday.

Also, check out these stories on free Xbox LIVE Gold weekend for the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Mexico and new Halo 4 game maps and packs.

Don’t get Scroogled: Bing launches campaign for honest search to help shoppers this holiday season. Even after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you might walk the halls around your office at lunchtime and still find a lot of your colleagues shopping online for the holidays. And they’ll be in good company. This year, according to shop.org, online sales will jump 12 percent over last year to US$96 billion dollars this holiday season. Because nearly half of all that online shopping will start from search engines, we wanted all consumers to understand exactly what happens when they use search to find those deals. Check out Tuesday’s Official Microsoft Blog post by Mike Nichols, corporate vice president and Chief Marketing Officer for Bing, to learn what Google has done with their shopping site right in time for Christmas.

What’s big and hairy and loves Windows Phone? Meet Bumble, our new celeb spokesmonster. If you’re a fan of the 1964 stop-motion animation holiday classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, you’ll probably recognize The Abominable Snow Monster of the North and many of his friends. Anybody else grow up loving this show? If so, you’ll really love this ad.

Ten great Windows Phone apps for holiday shopping. Michael Stroh of the Windows Phone team has a confession: He hates shopping. He says, “Oh, sure, I enjoy getting stuff for myself (who doesn’t?). And I love seeing my kids’ faces when they unwrap something I’ve bought them. But the packed malls, parking-lot duels, and other end-of-year holiday headaches? No thanks.” That’s why Stroh attacks his holiday shopping list with the surgical precision of an elite Seal team. His mission: get in and out, spending as little time (and ideally money) as possible. Apps play a big role in helping him pull this off. Michael shares his favorite shopping apps that help save your time and money on the Windows Phone blog.

The “Meet Your Match” website (and a new video) is officially live. Meet Your Match is off to a great start! Challenges are live in malls all over the world and in Microsoft Stores, and the videos have racked up over 300,000 views so far. So we figured…why not keep things going by adding some new content? Earlier this week, the Windows Phone team hit “publish” on another Meet Your Match video which shows a few iPhone fans meeting Windows Phone for the first time. Check it out and find out how you can take the Meet Your Match challenge.

And in case you missed it … The top 2012 searches from Bing reveal no one can keep up with the Kardashians.

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