On April 2nd 2014 Microsoft started the BUILD 2014 conference for developers in San Francisco, unveiling a bunch of major software products that we were expecting for a while now. Those include Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Update 1.
Windows Phone 8.1 features, as expected a virtual assistant called Cortana, a rival for Google Now and Siri, that’s based on Bing tech. Cortana supports voice commands and allows the user to perform searches, set reminders and calendar entries, make phone calls or get info about certain places you visit.
There’s also the aspect of information providing, courtesy of Bing. Cortana offers you news about sports, the weather and all sorts of latest info you can need. This feature is accessible with the aid of the Search button on Windows Phone devices and it can also provide you with customizable notifications, tailored to your needs.
In other news, Windows Phone 8.1 finally brings the user a decent notification area, dubbed Action Center. This includes a bunch of toggles that offer access to connectivity options, brightness, location features, WiFi, Bluetooth and such. Below that there’s a notification drawer with a list of missed calls, texts, emails and events that Cortana offers. WP 8.1 will have a customizable lockscreen that can be modified in real time by applications, as well as the theme.
You can also use a background for the tiles on the Start screen and proof regarding virtual buttons has been found at BUILD. Finally, we’ve got a Swype style keyboard dubbed Wordflow and a Do Not Disturb feature. In other and more tablet related news, Windows 8.1 Update 1 has been announced, after leaking on the web a few days ago. This release allows the user to interact with Metro apps from the taskbar in the Desktop area, where they can be pinned.
You can also pin the Windows Store app there, for quicker access. W8.1 Update 1 comes on April 8th, with IE 11 updated with business features and the platform offering boot to desktop now. The side search bar will now offer you results from the Store. The user interface has been improved for users of mice and keyboards. IE 11 will be able to automatically detect the size of the screen and type of device and optimize itself for browsing.
Now the minimum requirements for Windows 8.1 Update 1 are 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage, apparently. The update will be free of cost, by the way. I must also mention that at BUILD Microsoft announced that they will drop Windows royalty fees for devices with screens under 9 inches. This means that 8 inch slates with Windows 8.1, so popular right now will be much cheaper to make.
People expected to see a Metro version of Office at BUILD, after the release of the suite on the iPad and it came… kind of. Microsoft demoed new touch focused Office apps during the keynote. The new apps are build using DirectX and the idea is to open documents and other files on all devices smoothly and with full quality.
There’s unlimited Undo and Redo for Office now and the ability to save to OneDrive. I should that the demo at BUILD focused on PowerPoint alone… So, that’s it for day 1 of BUILD and the event continues tomorrow. No new tablet has popped up just yet, but this is a software event after all, so expect software to be the talk of the town here.