Weekend Reading: Feb. 15th Edition – Windows 8 Ads In Apps, Big Data Week Wrap-Up & Cool Windows Phone 8 Tips

In this edition of Weekend Reading, check out innovative new ad formats for Windows 8, take a deep dive on big data, and be still our hearts: Contre Jour returns.

Microsoft Advertising and agency partners bring Windows 8 ads in apps concepts to life. This week, Microsoft Advertising announced the launch of four creative new Windows 8 ads developed in close partnership with agency partners for brands including Delta and Paramount Pictures. “As part of the digital industry and through conversations with agencies, brands and publishers, we know that audiences are ready for something new,” wrote Stephen Kim, General Manager of Yarn at Microsoft. “And with Windows 8, we have a rich canvas that allows and inspires us to tell brand stories in a completely new way. That’s why we opened our doors early – before the product launched – to creatives, and invited them to play. As we sat down together waiting for the caffeine to kick in, we had no idea how the day would go, the direction we would take or what we would create. Collectively, we let our creativity push what we thought was possible and leaned on our new technology to make it real. What you see is the fruits of that co-ideation process.” See the ad experience Microsoft, Razorfish and Delta cooked up in the video below, check out Stephen Kim’s post on the Microsoft Advertising blog to see the other 3 concepts, and read Tuesday’s Adweek article to learn more about the new Windows 8 ad formats. 

A ‘golden era’ of insight: Big data’s bright future. At Microsoft Research labs around the world, some very deep thinkers are contemplating big data. This includes Eric Horvitz, distinguished scientist at Microsoft and co-director of Microsoft Research’s Redmond lab, who was recently elected to the National Academy of Engineering for his work in “computational mechanisms for decision making under uncertainty and with bounded resources.” He sees a future where machines, fueled by big data, can become “empowering, lifelong digital companions” who know what you want (be it medicine or a pizza), where you want to go (be it Hawaii or the most traffic-free way to the ball game) and generally just take care of business for you. This interview with Horvitz wraps up our Big Data Week series. Read the entire article in today’s feature on Microsoft News Center. And while big data offers serious possibilities, we couldn’t help but explore the lighter side with IDC researcher Dan Vesset in Fun with big data: Cat ladies, soccer subs and sexy scientists.

8 hidden Windows Phone 8 settings you’ll actually use. OK, so none of these are technically hidden. But Windows Phone blogger Michael Stroh knows that many people treat the Settings section of their smartphone or PC like terra pericolosa—scary territory worth venturing into only when absolutely necessary. If your travels there have been primarily limited to changing your ringtone or theme color, here are eight more good reasons to boldly go. Besides being some of Stroh’s favorite levers and knobs for making Windows Phone more personal and useful, these settings are also ones he often hears people asking about. Many are new, others have been around—all are worth knowing. Check them out in Stroh’s Wednesday post on the Windows Phone Blog.

Spotify arrives on Windows Phone 8. This should be music to your ears: The popular song streaming app Spotify is now available for Windows Phone 8. Download it from the Store. Spotify, which is being released as a beta, instantly increases the size of your music library by millions of tracks, making it easy to discover new songs and artists. You can create your own playlists, or browse and indulge in the ones your friends put together. For more on this story, head over to this Feb. 8 post on the Windows Phone Blog.

Contre Jour returns with beautiful new levels to excite fans around the globe. In October, we introduced the world to the adorable creature Petit by bringing the groundbreaking game Contre Jour to the Web with Internet Explorer 10 and HTML5. On Tuesday, we announced that Petit is back with 20 new levels to play on the Web. Just like the game we launched this fall, these new levels show off the power of browsing in IE10 with fully accelerated HTML5, and advanced multi-touch support for a first class browsing experience on a tablet. See the image for a peek at the “New Friend World” in Contre Jour. Then head to Tuesday’s Exploring IE blog post for more on this story and the Contre Jour phenomenon.

Hit the slopes with Winter Ski & Ride, a Nokia exclusive for Windows Phone 8. One of the perks of owning a Nokia-made Windows Phone is access to the Nokia Collection, a portfolio of 40-plus exclusive apps for Lumia owners in the Store. The latest timely addition is Winter Ski & Ride for Windows Phone 8, one of the best ski apps we’ve seen yet. But don’t just take our word for it: The app is also endorsed by the official U.S. association of ski and snowboard instructors. Grab it now on your phone. (Don’t own a Lumia? Here are more great winter sport apps to consider.) For more on this app, take a look at Tuesday’s post on the Windows Phone blog.

With over 12.9 million votes, Bing Pulse delivers the largest interactive State of the Union experience in history. Tuesday night, millions of Americans tuned into President Obama’s State of the Union address – and Bing stood alone in giving people a rare opportunity to give real-time feedback and access live social data at Bing.com/Politics. Powered by Bing search technology and its unique social search experience, Bing’s State of the Union experience featured the breakthrough Bing Pulse – what turned out to be the largest live online poll in history. For the rest of the story, head over to this Tuesday post on the Bing Search Blog.

Halo 4 Spartan Ops Episode 9 is now available. This week’s Halo 4 update brings five new missions in Episode 9. Meanwhile over in War Games, Oddball, King of the Hill and Team Regicide are combined in Team Objective. Plus a tweaked version of Team Snipers returns. Check out the video below or head over to Major Nelson’s Tuesday blog post.

Miss Underwood’s Printing Dress ‘knockoff.’ When Microsoft Research started work on the Printing Dress a couple years ago, their goal was to explore the world of wearable computing. So it was a bit of a surprise to see Carrie Underwood grace the stage at the Grammy Awards on Sunday in what appeared to be a very classic gown, only to have it morph into this sort of multi-colored projection screen. For those of you less inclined to watch the Grammy’s, check out Bing’s image search. Get the rest of this story in yesterday’s post on the Next at Microsoft blog.

Avoid repeating yourself: Create a Word macro. Repeatedly entering the same information in document after document, over and over…there has to be a quicker way, right? Word macros can save you time (and potentially, some sanity) by automating repetitive tasks. Let’s say you’re a real estate agent. Every time you sell a house you have to add a client’s name and address to multiple documents. Creating a macro automates adding all of a client’s contact information wherever you need to. Creating a macro is straightforward and doesn’t require any coding knowledge. Get step-by-step instructions in this Wednesday post on the Word Blog.

Posted by Jeff Meisner
Editor, The Official Microsoft Blog