Microsoft announces WIndows Phone 8.1 with a Siri rival called Cortana

(Image Credit: The Verge)

Microsoft has teased us with some tidbits at MWC 2014 and had promised us for the full scale Windows Phone 8.1 unveil at Microsoft BUILD conference in April.

It is April and Microsoft has kept it’s promise, revealing Windows Phone 8.1, along with the long rumored Siri rival, Cortana.

Windows Phone 8.1's Cortana Is Google Now Plus Siri

(Image Credit: Gizmodo)

Cortana was the biggest meat of the whole event,  most things about it were known by all long before the event because of  the rumor mills.

Cortana is basically an amalgamation of Google Now and Siri: It has the learning and contextual capabilities similar to Google Now which it flaunts around with a clever personality not unlike that of Siri.

“We believe Windows Phone is the world’s most personal smartphone,” said Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Windows Phone Joe Belifore.

It takes in real sentences not awkward robotic commands. It can do everything that the other personal assistants can do: Navigate you to a place, change music, add alarms, Schedule appointments,  etc.

In addition, it takes in data like browsing habits and locations you frequent to learn you, to provide contextually aware information, i.e the right information, at the right place, at the right time.

Plus, it has good app integration, unlike Siri. It is powered by Microsoft’s Bing.

All the data Cortana stores is visible to the user in an App called Notebook.

You can also activate a mode called Quiet Hours in which no one except the contacts you deem important can call you.

Cortana looks like a circular icon that adapts to your color scheme and sort of throbs when it is ‘thinking’ or listening.

Cortana also has the ability to connect the current question with the previous question to obtain an answer.

For example: You may ask “Who was Steve Jobs?” and then ask “When did he die?” (Referring to Steve Jobs), then Cortana may be able to connect the two and may know that the “he” in the second sentence is referring to “Steve Jobs” in the first sentence.

Overall. Cortana seems to be a capable competitor to Google Now and Apple and can prove to be an attractive point to a consumer while purchasing a smartphone.

You can interact with Cortana in two ways: Voice and Touch.

Cortana will launch as a beta in the United States and will later roll out to China and the UK.


(Image Credit: Ars Technica)

Another significant change is the introduction of a Swiftkey like keyboard where you swipe your fingers over the desired letters to make words.  Microsoft proudly referred to the Guinness World record for the fastest typing being won on a Swift key-like keyboard while unveiling the new keyboard.

WIndows Phone 8.1 also introduces Action Center which allows you to control which apps can send notifications.  There is also a toggle bar for basic settings such as Bluetooth and WiFi.

The Lock screen now has the potential to become more interesting with Microsoft’s introduction of new APIs.

Another aesthetic change: Start screen tiles can be skinned with images, earlier you could only skin with solid colors.

For WiFi dwellers, Windows Phone 8.1 has a feature called WiFi sense which automatically connects you to open wireless networks. Plus, it will allow you to share your home internet without sharing your password!.

Business features have also been introduced: there is now support for VPN and S/MIME, allowing you to encrypt and sign emails. the Calendar app had been updated to include support for user feedback.

Microsoft hasn’t given exact release details of Windows 8.1. They have only said the update will go live within the “next few months”.  However, Microsoft has signed on some hardware partners and Microsoft has promised for an April-May release date for Windows 8.1 phones.




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