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Microsoft brings Siri rival Cortana and an updated look to Windows Phone

The new update should arrive in a couple of months, although new phones with Windows 8.1 installed will be available sooner.

Microsoft corporate vice president Joe Belfiore, holds up new phones using the new Windows 8.1 during the keynote address of the Build Conference.
Microsoft corporate vice president Joe Belfiore, holds up new phones using the new Windows 8.1 during the keynote address of the Build Conference.
Image: Eric Risberg/AP/Press Association Images

MICROSOFT ANNOUNCED ITS updates for both its mobile operating system (OS) and desktop service, Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1.

At Microsoft’s developer conference BUILD, Microsoft executive, Joe Belfiore, revealed the two new updates at the event’s keynote speech.

Windows Phone 8.1 will be released to the public in the “next few months” although certain phones with it installed installed could be out sooner.

Alongside a new look, the biggest feature announced for Windows Phone was Microsoft’s long awaited personal voice assistant Cortana, which replaces the OS’ traditional search function.

Sharing a number of similarities with Apple’s Siri and Google Now, Cortana takes note of everything you share with it including reminders, interests and locations, to provide relevant suggestions and reminders.

For those who don’t want the personal assistant to note everything you do, its notebook feature allows you to allow or block Cortana’s access to specific information and functions.

Similar to Google Now, it can also remind you of events – and remind you when certain events clash – find places, schedule reminders and responds to natural language.

Cortana is only launching as a beta in the US first before it expands to the UK and other countries in the coming months.

Other features included in the update are an action centre – effectively a notification centre with toggle buttons for airplane mode and other services – and ‘Wi-Fi sense’, which allows your phone to connect to free wifi hotspots as well as share your home wifi connection without giving away your password.

It also features an improved navigation and keyboard service, the latter having fast-typing capabilities similar to Swype for Android.

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Windows 8.1

Microsoft Build Conference Source: AP Photo/Eric Risberg

The update to Windows 8.1 wasn’t as major as its mobile equivalent, instead opting for small updates to help improve the experience for keyboard and mouse users.

Some of the updates include making the taskbar visible on both the Start screen and tiled apps – so it’s easier to switch between desktop and tiled apps mode – tiles are easier to select and modify using the mouse, and a power button on the Start screen for easier shutdown.

This update will arrive on 8th April as an automatic download.

Read: Watch: This is what Microsoft’s answer to Siri will look like >

Read: Nokia will have to wait until next month before Microsoft deal passes >

About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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