At Build 2014 in Sans Francisco, Joe Belfiore has officially introduced Windows Phone 8.1 previously internally known as ‘Blue’. He demonstrated the custom lock screen, custom background for Start screen, Action Center, and the much-anticipated feature Cortana, the Apple Siri-like personal assistant powered by Bing.
The Cortana replaces the search feature completely and allows you to perform a number of tasks using voice commands. The mobile search assistant is backed by Bing and other partners, and pops up when you press the Search button on the Windows Phone 8.1 device. It opens up, taking over the home screen, with a blinking circular icon, and uses both Bing and on-device data to answer questions.
Like the iPhone assistant, it has its own “virtual” ironic personality. Jen Taylor, the voice actor of Cortana in Halo games provides the voice for Windows Phone 8.1’s Cortana. In working, it needs to track the user’s activity first and then collects messages, emails, notes, reminders or everything in a notebook so as to be more accurate and reliable. For instance, it can recognize a scheduled flight, by reading emails and then provide its real-time status.
The digital assistant is still in beta, but will be rolled out with Windows Phone 8.1 update in the US only, and will be activated later in China and the UK.
In addition, the new code also includes Internet Explorer 11, featuring Reading mode and InPrivate browsing. Belfiore also showed Wi-Fi Sense that allows you to automatically connect to a nearby hotspot and the word flow keyboard feature, a port of Android Swype keyboard. He also announced the arrival of two new partners: Micromax and Prestigio.
Microsoft will start rolling out Windows Phone 8.1 for developers in the coming weeks, while it will be pre-installed on new devices.