Weekend Reading: July 5th Edition—Windows Phone 8 gets Facebook facelift, Redbox and iHeartRadio

In this edition of Weekend Reading, you’ll hear about big apps that just hit Windows Phone 8, the first version of a Web-based Xbox Music experience and the Xbox exclusive game “Titanfall” setting records at the Game Critics Awards “Best of E3.”

Fans of the big and small-screen and live radio can now find apps like Redbox and iHeartRadio on Windows Phone 8, as well as a major facelift for the Facebook app. For those who need help naming that tune, Bing Audio for Windows Phone rolls out to 14 more countries. Windows Phone app developers who need a recap on Build 2013 or who might have missed some sessions can catch up through the Build 2013 Windows Phone Session Round-Up. Now available for the Windows Phone: video update app Keek and tech news must-have GeekWire; and for Windows 8, a Nook update. SkyDrive Pro apps are now available for Windows 8 and Apple iOS for SharePoint Online users in Office 365.

It was a big week for Xbox, leading off Monday with the first version of a Web-based Xbox Music experience, which gives Xbox Music Pass members access to instantly stream millions of songs right from their browser. The introduction of the Windows 8.1 Preview meant new updates for the Xbox entertainment apps on Windows, including: improvements to search, being able to browse your friends list or receive notifications in easy-to-view Tiles, and using Snap to access other apps while gaming. For more summer fun, the Exploring IE blog suggested Mix Party, a companion Web experience from Internet Explorer and Nokia Music using Xbox to sync partygoers’ smartphones to a music playlist and vote on the tracks they want to hear next.clip_image004

Xbox exclusive game “Titanfall” proved to be a hit at the Game Critics Awards “Best of E3,” breaking records with six wins, including “Best in Show.” If gamers are looking for a challenge this summer, they can now register for the largest “Halo 4” tournament ever, with five weeks of online competition and $500,000 in prizes. Xbox Live Gold members found out Wednesday about a great perk: they can download “Assassin’s Creed II” on Xbox 360 for free from July 16 to July 31. Bargain hunters also have through the weekend to take advantage of the Xbox Live Ultimate Game Sale and the Electronic Arts’ July Special sale for Windows Phone games.

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Over the last couple of years, Microsoft made deep changes to how we build and deliver products. The In the Cloud blog brings you a deeper dive into how we now build for the cloud first, using a customer scenario-centric approach. The best way to see that in action is to try the previews for Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, SQL Server 2014, Visual Studio 2013, Windows Intune and new Windows Azure services. For small and medium-sized businesses, The Windows Server Essentials and Small Business Server Blog shows how the Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials Preview builds on the value of it being a great primary server for their companies. Businesses of all sizes can also benefit from Microsoft’s commitment to help enterprises capitalize on the company’s devices and services strategy. They can now upgrade their software to Windows Embedded 8 Industry, without upgrading their devices.

Microsoft’s presence continued to expand with more retail store openings in Michigan and Indiana, including an appearance by Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer at the former. On Monday, Microsoft announced the next steps in Surface availability for commercial customers – channel expansion plans, a new commercial app partnership program and an update on the existing offer to help transform education. In other education-related news, five students were voted the grand prize winners of the YouthSpark Challenge for Change contest.

Hope everyone had a great Fourth of July holiday, and if you’re lucky enough to have today off too, enjoy your four-day weekend! Thanks for tuning into this edition of Weekend Reading.

Posted by Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff