Windows Phone 8.1 May Have Personal Assistant

Looks like Microsoft is getting ready to play hardball with Google and Apple. We've already heard lots of rumors stating that Windows Phone 8.1 will arrive in Spring 2014, and with Microsoft revealing the BUILD dates to be April 2 to April 4, put two and two together and you have the exact launch window for the "Blue" release of Windows Phone. Now there's talk about what we'll actually see with this release.

Unnamed sources told The Verge that Microsoft is currently testing a beta of Windows Phone 8.1 internally, and will reveal the new build during the developer conference in April. Two features arriving in this version include a much-needed notification center that can be accessed by swiping down from the top, similar to what's provided on Android and iOS. A short swipe reveals the system settings, and a long swipe will display the full notification history.

According to the sources, Microsoft's testing of Cortana began months ago, and the company plans to replace the existing Bing search on Windows Phone. Cortana will be similar to Google Now and Siri, providing conversational search and the ability to learn location context and data from the phone.Just like Google Now, Cortana will provide reminders, determine how long it will take for users to get to work, and so on.

The report also reveals that Microsoft is working on a number of other features including adding separate volume controls so that users can control the ringer and media volumes separately. Microsoft is also adding Bing Smart Search results that are similar to Windows 8.1, and VPN support for enterprise users. Other features include separating out the built-in music hub, allow Twitter and Facebook to extend the People Hub, and more.

Meanwhile, there's talk that Microsoft is currently waving a wad of cash (opens in new tab) under Samsung's nose in hopes that the Korean company will make awesome Windows Phone 8 devices like it has with Android. This bit of news arrives by way of Russian blogger Elder Murtazin who claims that wad of cash is equal to $1 billion USD. Samsung has sailed on the Windows Phone boat before along with HTC and Huawei, but now Nokia is seemingly the only ODM developing Windows Phone devices.

If Samsung takes the bait, will it produce a smartphone now, or wait until the BUILD conference to launch a new phone with Windows Phone 8.1. That seems very likely, but it's possible the company will reveal something with Windows Phone 8 during CES 2014 in January or Mobile World Congress 2014 in February.