Microsoft has this morning announced several advances to Windows including Windows Phone 8.1, including the availability of the eagerly anticipated Windows 8.1 Update.
Revealed at Build 2014, Microsoft's developer conference, Nokia also announced three new Lumia smartphones for Windows Phone 8.1, including the flagship Lumia 930, the affordable Lumia 635 and the first dual-SIM Lumia 630.
“The news today shines a light on continued Windows innovation in ways that benefit our customers, partners and developers alike," says Terry Myerson, executive vice president, OS Group, Microsoft.
"Our commitment is to make Windows more personal and accessible to individuals, and to ensure a vibrant ecosystem through closer collaboration with our industry partners."
Microsoft unveiled Windows Phone 8.1 and introduced Cortana, a personal digital assistant with a persona inspired by a much-loved “Halo” character.
Powered by Bing, Cortana gets to know you and gets better over time by asking questions based on your behaviour and checking in with you before she assumes you’re interested in something.
According to Microsoft, she detects and monitors the stuff you care about, looks out for you throughout the day, and helps filter out the noise so you can focus on what matters to you.
Other new features include Action Center, which complements Live Tiles by showing new activities and notifications at a glance; and Senses, a suite of features that takes the work out of managing data use, storage space and battery life.
Windows Phone 8.1 also allows IT professionals to manage devices and for professionals to connect to essential business apps and services with features such as simplified device enrollment, a built-in mobile device management client, S/MIME for encrypted mail and VPN support.
Windows Phone 8.1 will start rolling out to current Windows Phone 8 users over the coming months and will come pre-installed on new phones starting this month.
Cortana will launch shortly in the U.S. as a beta, in the U.K. and China in the second half of 2014, and in other countries in 2015. Registered developers can update their phones to Windows Phone 8.1 as part of the developer program later this month.
Windows 8.1 update...
Microsoft also announced Windows 8.1 Update, including user interface improvements for mouse and keyboard users, the ability to access the taskbar from any screen and pin Windows Store apps to the taskbar alongside desktop apps and favorite websites, and performance and compatibility enhancements to Internet Explorer 11.
According to Redmond, these improvements "provide faster, more direct access to the things customers care most about", so activities such as powering down, searching the Web and switching between apps are easier than ever.
Navigating with the mouse and keyboard will feel more familiar and intuitive because there’s more consistency with where controls are and how they work.
Specific to the enterprise, Windows 8.1 Update offers improved Internet Explorer 8 compatibility on Internet Explorer 11, extends mobile device management functionality, and eases deployment with increased predictability for new operating systems and line-of-business apps by leveraging familiar management tools.
Current Windows 8.1 customers will receive the Windows 8.1 Update for free through Windows Update, while Windows 8 customers will receive the update free through the Windows Store, beginning April 8, 2014.