Microsoft may start letting customers upgrade to Windows Phone 8.1 on June 24

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) quietly announced that it intends to start supporting a Windows Phone 8.1 software update on June 24. However, it's unclear if that means wireless carriers will start pushing the update to customers on that date.

Microsoft hopes that the update, which features its new digital personal assistant Cortana, will help it gain momentum in the market. The software giant essentially released the news via its product support website, and said it will roll out software updates for devices running Windows Phone 8.1 for three years from the "lifecycle start date," which is listed on the page as June 24. Thus, Microsoft intends to support Windows Phone 8.1 devices through July 11, 2017.

Notably, Microsoft did not officially confirm the upgrade date. "Windows Phone 8.1 will start rolling out to existing Windows Phone 8 users over the coming months," a Microsoft representative told PCWorld.

"Microsoft will make updates available for the operating system, including security updates, for a minimum of 36 months after the lifecycle start date. These updates will be incremental, with each update built on the update that preceded it. Customers need to install each update in order to remain supported," Microsoft said.

"The distribution of these incremental updates may be controlled by the mobile operator or the phone manufacturer from which you purchased your  phone, and installation will require that your phone have any prior  updates. Update availability will also vary by country, region, and  hardware capabilities," the company added.

When Microsoft unveiled Windows Phone 8.1 at its Build developer conference in early April, the company said it would be rolled out as a software update in the next few months but would be installed in new phones starting at the end of April.

Cortana is something of a combination of Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) Siri and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Now service, but users have much more control over how Cortana functions and what information it uses. The Cortana service is powered by Microsoft's Bing search engine and gets to know users as they  Cortana can access a phone's calling, messaging and calendar functions, and can set reminders, make notes, set alarms, see what music is playing nearby, schedule appointments and answer questions about sports scores and restaurants. It can even tell a user how many calories are in certain foods.

Windows Phone 8.1 also includes a new notification center, a more personalized stream of apps and featured apps and a new feature called Wi-Fi Sense that allows a user's Wi-Fi credentials to pass over from their PC or tablet to phone.

So far, Windows Phone 8.1 has received positive reviews. However, it may what Microsoft has done from a hardware partner perspective that will increase adoption of Windows Phone. In addition to taking control of Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) devices business, Microsoft eliminated licensing fees for Windows device makers that are building smartphones and tablets with screens smaller than nine inches.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has defended the move as a way to spur Windows Phone adoption. "We looked at what it made sense for us to do on tablets and phones below nine inches, and we felt that the price there needed to be changed," he said on the company's quarterly earnings conference call last month. "We have monetization vehicles on the back end for those, and that's how we're going to approach each one of these opportunities. Because in a world of ubiquitous computing, we want Windows to be ubiquitous. That doesn't mean one price, one business model for all of that. And it's actually a market expansion opportunity."

In other Windows Phone news, LG Electronics denied that a leaked photo of an LG Windows Phone will be the device that it will introduce as it comes back into the Windows Phone fold. The image of the device was posted by noted mobile leaker evleaks, but LG denied that it was a real phone, according to Engadget. LG is one of many OEMs and ODMS Microsoft has recently struck deals with to widen its circle of hardware partners, especially for emerging markets. The list of Windows Phone supporters now includes Foxconn, Gionee, Lava, Lenovo, Longcheer, JSR, Karbonn, Micromax, Prestigio and ZTE.

For more:
- see this Microsoft site
- see this PCWorld article
- see this PC Magazine article
- see this PhoneScoop article
- see this Engadget article

Related Articles:
Microsoft's CEO defends making Windows Phone free, hints at wearables
Microsoft's Windows Phone 8.1 nets positive reviews
Microsoft's OS chief Myerson hedges on getting Android apps on Windows
Microsoft makes Windows Phone free for OEMs
Microsoft introduces Cortana digital assistant in Windows Phone 8.1