Microsoft Unveils Windows Phone 8.1, Virtual Assistant Cortana in Tow

Microsoft has taken the wraps off of Windows Phone 8.1 this morning at a three-hour keynote event at Microsoft’s BUILD conference in San Francisco. The update brings a new Action Center to Windows Phone devices, as well as Windows’ Siri and Google Now competitor, Cortana. Windows Phone 8.1 is expected to begin rolling out to consumers in the next few months, with a developer edition available in the coming weeks.

We’ve heard a lot about Cortana thanks to leaks and rumors, and those rumors turned out to be spot on. Cortana runs on Bing Search, and just like Siri and Google Now utilizes speech commands to run search queries, make phone calls, open up apps and more.

While Microsoft spent a good time of the presentation focusing on Cortana, the update packs a ton of other features as well. A new Action Center will grace Windows Phone devices, similar in nature to Android’s notification bar. “Shape Writing” will also be making an appearance, introducing a Swype-like interface to Windows Phone. That means that users will be able to input text by swiping from character to character to spell out words, unlike the hunt and peck strategy most of use utilize when using a software keyboard.

A new method of handling WiFi connections was shown off, dubbed Wi-Fi Sense. Wi-Fi Sense will join public hotspots automatically, bypassing security login screens. Wi-Fi passwords can also be shared through the contact list, and will sync Wi-Fi passwords from your PC to a connected device.

Business and Enterprise support in Windows Phone 8.1 has received a boost, now including support for VPNs and S/MIME which allows users to cryptographically sign e-mails.

Microsoft certainly has put a ton of work into the Windows Phone 8.1 update, finally puts the Windows Phone mobile OS in the running to take on the likes of Google and Apple.

via: ARS Technica

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