On Wednesday, Microsoft took the wraps off of Windows Phone 8.1 and announced updates to Windows 8.1 at the Build developer conference in San Francisco.
Windows Phone 8.1 will be arriving in new smartphones as early as late-April and early-May, and rolling out to compatible phones ‘in the coming months’. The Windows 8.1 Update will be available for free for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 users on 8 April via Windows Update.
Windows Phone 8.1
“Windows Phone 8.1 is less about technology and more about you” said Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president and manager for Windows Phone Program Management.
Right at the beginning of the event, Belfiore announced two new hardware partners for the Windows Phone platform – Micromax and Prestigio (Cyprus-based manufacturer) – whose handsets were briefly showcased
Belfiore demonstrated all the new features in Windows Phone 8.1 at Microsoft’s Build Conference, with Cortana being the major highlight.
Cortana is very much Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri, Samsung’s S Voice, and all the other voice assists software suites out there named after the artificial intelligence character from the company’s flagship video game franchise Halo.
It is being launched in beta for Windows Phone 8.1 — rolling out over the next few months — and will expand beyond the US to the UK and other countries over time.
“We think Cortana is the most personal digital assistant,” Belfiore said.
Cortana is powered by Bing, and lets you manage basic phone functions, set appointments, perform searches, play back music, and set so-called quiet hours when only your inner circle of contacts may reach you.
Besides Cortana the Windows 8.1 Action Center was shown off, the new swipe-down notification and settings pane that can be accessed from nearly anywhere in the OS – very similar of course, to the original implementation Android had pioneered.
Additionally, there’s a more customizable lock screen, which will allow third-party apps to do “more interactive and unique” things with a set of new APIs. The Start Screen tiles have also been tweaked, with the ability to skin them with one overall image instead of just a solid color.
Belfiore also revealed ‘Shape Writing’ or ‘Word Flow’ for Windows Phone 8.1, which delivers a gesture-based Swype-like onscreen keyboard. Belfiore boasted that a Windows Phone 8.1 beta device was now the new Guinness World Record holder for fastest typing on a smartphone.
A new feature called Wi-Fi Sense will automatically connect you to free wireless hotspots nearby. Not only that, it’ll also let you share your home wireless network with friends without actually giving them your password. Microsoft hasn’t fully detailed how that will be done, but it certainly sounds like a handy feature.
The new Skype app for Windows Phone 8.1 has also been integrated with a phone dialer. This makes it easy to upgrade a normal phone call into a Skype video call with a tap of a button. The new Skype app is designed to work with Cortana as well. The Windows Phone Store and the calendar app have also been updated, integrating user feedback asking for alternative views and generally aiming to delight users.
The Windows Phone 8.1 will start rolling out for existing Windows Phone 8 users. In the coming months, it will be pre-installed on Nokia Lumia 930, 630 and 635.
Windows 8.1 Update
Microsoft made Windows 8.1 Update 1 official during its Build 2014 developer conference in San Francisco.
Microsoft updated the user interface for the mouse and keyboard users. This includes everything from Modern apps now displaying in the task bar (by pinning), to complete mouse control over apps in the Modern UI interface. The Windows Store UI will also be made mouse-optimized.
Bringing more clickable options to the Start Screen, Microsoft also stuck on a power and search button to the upper right portion of the screen. Rather than having to go through the charms menu, users will be able to shutdown their computer straight from the Start Screen.
Universal Windows apps are a big deal for Windows 8.1 and Microsoft is working to make integration across devices including phones and tablets. Thanks to a new runtime on Windows Phone 8.1, apps built for phones can live on the desktops.
PowerPoint, Excel and Word will be in apps that are touch-friendly and run across devices on release of the Windows 8.1 Update. These will include the “ribbon” interface now well known for being on the traditional Windows
With the last set of future updates-it will introduce a new version of the classic Windows Start menu that combines features from the pre-Windows 8 menu with new Windows 8 concepts like Live Tiles. We aren’t sure exactly when this update will be available, but it’s just the latest step back that Microsoft has taken from the original user interface it introduced in Windows 8.
Windows 8.1 Update will be released on 8 April. For further information stay tuned!!!
( Image via Mashable )