Microsoft reinstates start menu among other changes for Windows 8.1

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Microsoft has rolled out updated Windows Phone software with voice-search features and offering it for free to manufacturers of smartphones and tablets.

The software giant’s move is in a quest to catch up with Apple and Google mobile devices considering Windows phones have had minimal attention in today’s market both in mobile gadgets and tablets. The offer will apply to devices with screens less than 9 inches.

The updates for Windows 8.1 include a voice-controlled digital assistant called cortana similar to Apple’s Siri and will be available for all over the coming months. Also available will be separate updates for laptops, larger tablets and desktop PCs, reinstates the start menu that was infamously axed in Windows 8 and will roll out as a free update starting April 8.

“Microsoft is facing challenges on the mobile and tablet fronts and need to change their strategy to move the growth needle, this is a good and logical first step,”said Capital markets analyst.

The new Cortana fully replaces the search feature on Windows phone. Developers outside Microsoft can write their own apps for cortana since the voice controlled digital assistant can learn about consumers from their searches, keep track of people they interact with and set up an inner circle of the most important people and who can contact users during the times of day they set as ‘quiet hours’.

The program can be used to start a Skype call, add a TV show to the user’s Hulu queue or check a friends facebook post.

Microsoft said apps across all its consumer platforms can now be universal meaning they will run across smartphones, tablets and PCs with little to no re-coding.