OK, here are my thoughts, get ready... epic comment...
Paul, thanks for the mention. You were the first person I thought of when I read the news. Is your top secret project shipping?
Yes, I've been absent. Work and personal life are consuming my time. I've been cutting my teeth on the Windows 8 Developer Preview and I want to get something into the store soon. It amazes me that the preview works on my 5 yr old DELL Inspiron.
Also, I didn't know you moved teams. Keep up the great work over on the System Centre Advisor Team. You will always be my cool SQL Server guy.
XBOX live for all is great. On a larger idea, I'm surprised Microsoft hasn't released more apps on other mobile platforms. My Dad really wants Microsoft Office on his iPad, especially Excel. OneNote on the iPad is awesomeness!
Ah, the sorted topic of virtual currency. I understand credit card purchases are inundated with fees, but change the system to make it 1 to 1. Make the math dead simple.
Laura, regarding gift cards, I have dozens of them with maybe 2 or 3 dollars left in change. I recently used the remainder to pay for the person in line behind me, it made them really happy. I love reloadable gift cards This is how I get my coffee in the morning (I'm not a loose change carrying type of person). I actually work with a guy who doesn't even have a debit card. He still goes to the brick and mortar bank to get money out for the week. Cash is still king even though I rarely use it.
MIX striked me as the afternoon snack between PDC and TechEd. I like the different types of content at MIX, but you get conference overload. Which one do you attend, which one do you skip, is there mobile, desktop and web, is it local, do I fly, do I need a hotel, etc. Microsoft shoud have an online pass for premium conference content. Maybe link that to your MSDN?
Personally, I really miss the Deep Dives we used to have in Calgary. They were at the local Cinema and ran all morning. It was a great use of a theater, good acoustics and really comfortable seats and everyone could see the giant screen. They were also presented by local MVP or RDs which was a great for networking.