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Microsoft's first Windows Phone 8.1 update is now rolling out

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Developers get an early look at Live Folders and other new features

Microsoft's first update to Windows Phone 8.1 is rolling out to developers today. While it's technically a developer release, anybody with a Windows Phone can register freely to install the update through Microsoft's App Studio program. If you're an App Studio participant then you won't need to pay the $19 fee to be a Windows Phone developer, and you'll still be able to get early access to Update 1.

Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 includes a number of improvements just a few months after the original 8.1 release to developers. One main addition is the introduction of folders for Windows Phone. Microsoft has always used Live Tiles for its apps, and the new Live Folders feature simply allows Windows Phone users to drag a tile over another tile to create and name a folder. Live Tiles will still function within the folder, and appear on the main tile of the folder.

Cortana makes its way to the UK and China

Microsoft is also adding the ability to select multiple SMS messages for forwarding or deletion, user-customizable snooze settings for alarms, and improvements to the Live Tile for Xbox Music. Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 also brings Cortana to new markets, including the UK and China as beta. Australia, Canada, and India will also be able to take advantage of Cortana in an alpha form, ahead of a roll out to additional markets in future. Developer preview users can access the update immediately by simply checking for updates on a Windows Phone 8.1 handset. The update will roll out to other devices in the coming months.