Microsoft Shows Off Updates to Windows Phone, Including a Halo-Inspired Siri Competitor

Jason O. Gilbert
Technology Editor
April 2, 2014

At its annual BUILD developer’s conference in California, Microsoft unveiled major updates to Windows Phone, with a new version called Windows Phone 8.1.

Probably the most notable new feature is Cortana, a voice assistant for Windows Phone similar to Apple’s Siri. Cortana — named after the personal assistant of the main character of the popular Xbox game Halo — learns from your past searches and daily habits, suggesting news articles, delivering the weather, and setting alarms and reminders.

Like Siri, Cortana has a sassy personality, and you can talk to her like she’s a fellow human, asking questions and phrasing your speech normally. 

Windows Phone has struggled to gain a foothold in the global smartphone market, lagging behind Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS, deep in third place. The design of Windows Phone has won praise from critics, though a lack of popular apps has hurt its prospects. 

Aside from Cortana, Microsoft showed off a notification center, similar to the ones on Android and iOS, that you can access by pulling down from the top of the phone. Windows Phone will also now include a Swype-style WordFlow keyboard, which will allow you to type by sliding your finger across the keyboard over the keys you want to type. 

Windows Phone 8.1 will become available as a free download in the next few months. New phones with Windows 8.1 installed will go on sale later in April. 

Developing. You can watch the announcement live here