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Microsoft announces Windows Phone 8.1

Updated Apr 2nd, 2014 12:29PM EDT

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Microsoft on Wednesday took the wraps off Windows Phone 8.1, the latest version of its mobile operating system that it hopes will help spark more demand for its mobile products. Among other things Microsoft announced that Indian vendor Micromax would be making low-cost Windows Phones, which should help Windows Phone gain some traction in emerging markets versus Android. Among other things, Windows Phone 8.1 ads a pull-down Action Center that gives Windows Phone users quick access to key settings and mobile apps.

Microsoft is also giving users the ability to customize both their lock screens and their Start screens with Windows Phone 8.1. One of the coolest features is the ability to add new textures to the Live Tiles on the main user interface so not all Windows Phone devices will have be made up of plain-looking colored tiles.

Microsoft revealed that its highly anticipated Cortana voice-enabled personal assistant would be coming to Windows Phone 8.1. Cortana, which was named after the artificial intelligence program in the Halo video game series, has also replaced the default search function within Windows Phone. Microsoft is emphasizing that Cortana will be much more privacy conscious than other personal assistants since Cortana will ask permission before tracking different types of user data.

Microsoft also announced some new business features added to Windows Phone 8.1, including native support for enterprise VPN and the ability to write and send encrypted emails through their devices.

Windows Phone 8.1 will roll out as an update over the next few months and Microsoft says the first Windows Phone 8.1 devices would hit the market in late April and early May.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.