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Microsoft officially debuts Windows Phone 8.1, Cortana assistant

updated 12:11 pm EDT, Wed April 2, 2014

Announcements spearhead start of Build developer's conference

At today's Microsoft Build developer's conference, the company has officially taken the wraps off of a major update to its mobile operating system, Windows Phone. Windows Phone 8.1 brings improvements to compatible devices, as well as the beta release of previously-rumored voice-controlled virtual assistant, Cortana.

The new Windows Phone 8.1 update also brings custom lock screens, with application interfacing. A new notification center has been added -- the new Action Center allows quick access to frequently-accessed features of the phone, such as network connectivity, and email perusal.

Cortana is Microsoft's voice search tool (voiced by the Jen Taylor, the same actress who portrayed Cortana in the Halo game series) and is powered by Bing. Cortana has full access to the user's calendar, and permission can be given for the software to examine email to give contextually important information. Microsoft Corporate Vice President and Manager for Windows Phone Program Management Joe Belfiore noted that the phone itself surveys for useful information, and the emails aren't shared with Microsoft in any way, other than general queries. The new virtual assistant has hooks into many third-party apps, such as Hulu and Facebook.

The Build conference keynote is still underway. Electronista is monitoring developments and will update this post as necessary.

by MacNN Staff



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