Science and Tech


Announcements From Microsoft’s Build Conference

Microsoft had news and updates for devices all across its ecosystem Wednesday.
Posted at 10:10 AM, Apr 03, 2014

Microsoft crammed a whole lot of news into its Build developer conference Wednesday.

The company announced updates across its platforms. Windows Phone 8.1 in particular is getting lots of new features, including its Bing-powered digital assistant Cortana.

Sound familiar? Cortana was originally a codename, but it wound up sticking after fans chimed in. The Verge likes it.

“The Cortana naming and background is linked directly to Halo, and meshes well with Microsoft’s main goal for the product: recreate a real personal assistant without being too creepy.”

Microsoft explains it built limits into Cortana. Instead of building a comprehensive library from all the data you send through your phone, she works out of a “notebook” of approved information — a mannerism Microsoft says was inspired by real life personal assistants. (ViaLaptop Magazine)

Microsoft also announced any partner manufacturers building devices with screens smaller than 9 inches will be able to install Windows Phone 8.1 for free. (Via Nokia)

PC Magazine calls it a move that “could prompt more phone makers to experiment with Windows Phone - and more developers to create apps and services for the platform.”

To that end, Microsoft is planning a unified runtime for applications across its computers, phones and consoles.

Developers can write one program, and consumers will be able to run them anywhere. Same for buying apps or making in-app purchases, according to The Next Web: “If you buy something on your phone, you’ll get the same access on your PC.”

The next update for Windows 8.1 will provide options for easier navigation, both for those using touchscreens and those on traditional keyboards.

And GigaOM reports Microsoft is even working on a version of its Office software specifically for touch devices, but it didn’t provide a detailed timeline for when it would be available.

Microsoft officials say Windows 8.1 will update for PCs April 8; Windows Phone 8.1 will roll out to mobile devices over the coming months.