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At Microsoft’s annual Build conference, the tech giant announced Windows Phone 8.1 with a new personal assistant named after the Halo franchise’s Cortana and a Windows 8.1 Update with a lot of minor changes to improve the experience for mouse and keyboard users. The Windows Phone 8.1 update will be rolling out “in the coming months,” while the Windows 8.1 update will roll out universally via the Windows Store on April 8th for free.

Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Siri and Google Now, is the main new feature to be coming to Windows Phone devices with the update to 8.1, but at first she will only be in Beta and in the US. She keeps a notebook of information relevant to you by checking your email for upcoming flights, tracking the traffic for your commute to work, or finding news and weather relevant to you. If at anytime you feel like she’s getting too personal, you can see exactly what she knows about you in her notebook and delete it.

Other new features include support for a third column of live tiles on any size device, the ability to add a background image behind transparent live tiles, new lock screen themes, an Action Center to rival iOS’s Command Center and Android’s Quick Settings, a Word Flow keyboard similar to Swype, as well as minor updates to nearly all the baked-in apps and new phone information apps called Data Sense, WiFi Sense, Storage Sense, and Battery Saver.

As for Windows 8.1, the desktop and tablet operating system will be receiving a significant upgrade that caters more to desktop users than tablet users. Modern apps can now be pinned to the desktop’s taskbar and the taskbar will appear even on modern apps by moving your mouse to the bottom of the screen.


While in the modern interface, a right click will now make a desktop-style menu appear, and moving your mouse to the top of the screen will allow you to see the familiar minimize and exit buttons. Some devices now automatically boot to the desktop, a power button and search button appear on the Start Screen, and IE11 has been updated to better display on screens of any size.

What do you think of these updates?

Source: Windows Phone Blog, Windows Experience Blog | Image Credit: Flickr/Brian

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