Weekend Reading: Dec. 23rd Edition–Top Microsoft Newsmakers of 2011, More on the Kinect Effect, plus Bing, MSN, Office and a Great Last-Minute Holiday Shopping Guide

In this, the final 2011 edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got stories on top Microsoft newsmakers, Bing, Kinect, MSN, Office and a great holiday shopping guide for those of you who really, really put off your shopping until the last minute!

Microsoft people: Some of the coolest newsmakers we met in 2011. A real pleasure of working in the Microsoft News Center is being able to introduce you to fascinating people doing interesting and exciting things, both inside and outside the company. It’s a real challenge to pick a selection of these profile stories for our end-of-year slide show. See and hear from some of the people we connected with in 2011, from tech luminaries such as Jaron Lanier and Bill Buxton to lesser-known but equally inspiring Microsoft employees such as Patricia Walsh and Albert Rocker. To see the profiles, read this feature story (and slide show) on the Microsoft News Center.

Bing takes stock of 2011 and the year ahead. A few weeks ago, we shared the top Bing searches for 2011 which captured a snapshot of the year’s most important people, places and moments in time. With 2011 wrapping up and the New Year around the bend, we fielded a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults on how they felt about 2011 and how they plan to ring in 2012. From resolutions to New Year’s Eve celebration plans, read this Tuesday post on the Bing Search Blog to hear what they had to say.

Apps are not enough: putting people first. This is a time of year where we tend to think about connecting and reconnecting with all the people we care about, virtually and in person. And it’s a time of year where many of us are incredibly busy – wrapping up our to-do’s for the year, wrapping up holiday presents, sending out cards, getting ready for holiday travel or preparing for visitors. And it turns out, there really isn’t an app for the holidays that lets us do it all. To see how Microsoft can help you accomplish these important things and still have time to relax, read this Monday post on The Official Microsoft Blog, which features a short video illustrating just exactly what we mean.

MSN 2011 year in review. The time leading to New Year's Day is an opportunity to reflect on the passing year. Throughout the last weeks of December and into January, MSN is presenting “Year in Review,” a network wide showcase of award-winning editorial content exploring the best, worst, and most notable moments of 2011. For more detail, read this Wednesday post on The MSN Blog. Don’t miss it. Below is a screenshot of the MSN 2011 year in review:

MSN 2011 YIR

The Microsoft Guide to Last-Minute Holiday Shopping. OK, if you’re reading this today, two days before Christmas, then that means your holiday shopping isn’t finished yet. You don’t have to panic though. Just because you’re scrambling to finish up your holiday shopping doesn’t mean you can’t compare prices. Using Windows Phone and Bing, you can comparison shop on the go. Fire up Bing Vision, which allows you to scan a product, a UPC or QR code – and see how much it costs and where to buy it. We even have a video that shows you how to do all this stuff in this Tuesday post on The Official Microsoft Blog. Good luck!

Kinect Effect reaches into hospitals, senior centers. In the year since Microsoft launched Kinect for Xbox 360, the controller-free device has been adopted and adapted for a growing number of non-gaming uses, many of them in the healthcare field. To get a better sense for how doctors, health care professionals and scientists are using the Kinect technology, read this feature story on the Microsoft News Center and this Tuesday post on the Software Enabled Earth Blog.

Most popular Microsoft Office video blog posts for 2011. It's time to hear from the people. Here are the most clicked video posts created this year on the Office Casual blog. Read this Tuesday post on the Office Casual Blog to see which videos made the list.

Inside Microsoft's model shop. The latest video from the recent Underground Tour with Josh Topolosky and Chad Mumm of The Verge just posted on their site and it’s a peek inside one of Next at Microsoft Blog Editor Steve Clayton’s favorite places on Microsoft’s campus here in Redmond – the model shop. It’s also a chat with one of his favorite people – Karsten Aagaard – his story is fantastic, a toymaker who found a job at Microsoft. Read this Tuesday post, which features a video, to get the rest of the story.

That’s a wrap for this edition of Weekend Reading. Drop by again on Dec. 30th for The Official Microsoft Blog’s final post of the year – a list of the top 10 stories published on the blog in 2011. Happy holidays and see you again in 2012! Thanks for reading!

Posted by Jeff Meisner
Editor, The Official Microsoft Blog

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