Natalie Parkinson
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Microsoft unveiled phone software with rival to Apple’s Siri

Microsoft Corp. renewed its push to catch up with Apple Inc. and Google Inc. in mobile devices, unveiling updated Windows Phone software with voice-search features and offering it for free for small phones and tablets.

Microsoft, which previously required a licensing fee for Windows, will offer it without charge for handsets and tablets with screens of less than nine inches, Microsoft operating systems chief Terry Myerson said at the company’s Build conference for developers in San Francisco today. Microsoft also showed off a voice-controlled digital assistant called Cortana that is similar to Apple’s Siri, which is part of a new Windows Phone 8.1 software for mobile gadgets.