Weekend Reading: April 4th Edition — Cortana coming to Windows Phone 8.1 and Microsoft creates a cloud portal

This edition of Weekend Reading is all about the Build developer conference in San Francisco where Microsoft unveiled new opportunities for developers, the new Microsoft Azure Preview Portal, Windows Phone 8.1 with Cortana on the way, and updates to Windows 8.1.

Cortana, your personal virtual assistant in Windows Phone 8.1, was introduced at Build. Cortana is powered by Bing and inspired by the “Halo” character of the same name. She’ll join Windows Phone 8.1 soon in the U.S. in beta, then will launch in the U.S., the U.K. and China in the second half of 2014, with other countries to follow in 2015. Cortana will get better over time by asking questions based on your behavior and checking in with you before she assumes you’re interested in something. All the info Cortana curates for you is stored in Cortana’s Notebook. This information enables Cortana to be proactive and helpful to you throughout the day, just like a real assistant.

Windows Phone 8.1 brings a new Word Flow Keyboard that’s smart enough to learn your writing style and even knows the names of the people in your contacts list for faster typing. Best of all, the new Word Flow Keyboard lets you glide your fingers over the keys to type very quickly. There’s also Wi-Fi Sense, which will automatically connect you to free public hotspots it finds to help you save cellular data. Data Sense, another new feature, lets you track how much data usage you use in a given month and will give you a breakdown of usage by app so you can see which app is using the most of your data. The new Action Center lets you see notifications from any app – pinned or not – and gives you a customizable way to quickly access the settings you care about most, like Wi-Fi, Flight Mode, Bluetooth and Rotation Lock.

Windows 8.1 Update, available April 8 for free, gives users a more familiar experience when it comes to using a keyboard and mouse, as well as other changes based on customer feedback. If you like using the desktop, select devices will now boot to the desktop as the default setting. On the Start screen, on select devices you’ll now find the Power and Search buttons at the upper-right corner next to your account picture. On your taskbar, you can now pin both desktop apps and apps from the Windows Store as well as your favorite websites. Pin any app you want to the taskbar – such as Facebook or Flipboard – so you can open or switch between apps right from the desktop. Both the Windows 8.1 Update and Windows Phone 8.1 deliver important capabilities designed for the enterprise. Also, an updated version of Internet Explorer 11 that works across devices was made available Wednesday for Windows 8.1 and Windows 7, and debuted on Windows Phone 8.1.

At the Build 2014 developers’ conference in San Francisco, Microsoft said it will embrace more kinds of code and share more of its work with the developer community, while removing roadblocks, highlighting Microsoft’s continued commitment to its partners and the developer community by maximizing opportunities across the broadest range of devices and services. Microsoft detailed new developer opportunities on the Windows platform with a common platform across devices, a single toolset, a common infrastructure across the Windows and Windows Phone stores, and a clear commitment to interoperability.

We also unveiled the Microsoft Azure Preview Portal, a first-of-its kind cloud environment that provides a fully integrated cloud experience, bringing together cross-platform technologies, services and tools that enable developers and businesses to innovate with enterprise-grade scalability at startup speed. The portal is an “important step forward in delivering our promise of the cloud without complexity,” said Scott Guthrie, Microsoft executive vice president of the Cloud and Enterprise Group.


We said “hello” to three beautiful new Nokia Lumia smartphones: the flagship Nokia Lumia 930, which delivers the best of Microsoft and Lumia for the ultimate video and imaging experience, and the Nokia Lumia 635 and Nokia Lumia 630, all of which will come with Windows Phone 8.1. The Nokia Lumia 930, with a 5-inch display, has a 20-megapixel PureView camera with ZEISS optics and advanced Rich Recording. The Nokia Lumia 630 is a 3G phone that will be the first Lumia with an option for dual SIM cards for those who want to, say, keep their personal information on one SIM card, and business-related information on the second card.

Improved Skype for Windows 8.1 and new Skype for Windows Phone 8.1 was announced. On your Windows phone, the emphasis is on having the best Skype experience on the go. You’ll be able to easily upgrade your audio phone calls to Skype video calls, or use Cortana, Windows Phone 8.1’s virtual assistant, to quickly chat with friends and family via Skype. With Windows 8.1, it will be easier to reach the special people in your life across all of your devices: tablets, computers, Xbox and TVs. You also can choose whether you pin Skype to your Start screen or to your taskbar.

This week on the Microsoft Facebook page, we introduced you to Antoine Bertout, who created a low-bandwidth version of Skype for remote areas in need, like refugee camps. Tell us your story using #ICreatedThis.


Thanks for checking out this edition of Weekend Reading. See you next week!

Posted by Suzanne Choney
Microsoft News Center Staff

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