Microsoft upgrades Windows Phone with virtual assistant

San Francisco, Apr 3 (EFE).- Microsoft Corp. kicked off its annual Build conference here by presenting an update for Windows Phone devices that includes a virtual assistant.

Cortana, named for a character in Microsoft's "Halo" video games, represents the software giant's response to Google Now and Apple's Siri.

The Windows Phone 8.1 update incorporates an Action Center for app notifications and information on the state of the battery.

Cortana - still in beta test mode - is equipped to warn users about potential scheduling conflicts when they add appointments to their calendars. The virtual assistant can also be set to provided the user with reminders linked to individual contacts.

Microsoft is allowing app developers to integrate Cortana into their products.

Windows Phone 8.1 comes with "WiFi sense," Microsoft Corporate Vice President Joe Belfiore said, meaning that the device will automatically connect to free Wi-Fi hotspots to save on cellular data charges.

Microsoft did not say whether Cortana will be available in languages other than English.