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Report: Windows Phone 8.1 Coming April with 'Cortana' Voice Assistant

Microsoft will unveil the next major update to its Windows Phone 8 smartphone platform next April, according to a report from The Verge on Monday.

Windows Phone 8.1, currently code-named "Blue," will debut during Microsoft's next Build developer conference, wrote The Verge's Tom Warren, citing "sources familiar with Microsoft's plans." Build 2014 is scheduled to take place on April 2 in San Francisco, Calif.

In addition to the April 2014 release timeframe, Warren reported that Windows Phone 8.1 will feature a personal voice assistant similar to Apple's "Siri" for the iPhone and Google's "Now" for Android devices.

"Microsoft has been testing Cortana for a number of months, and we understand it will replace the existing Bing search on Windows Phone to allow users to interact using voice or text input," Warren wrote, adding that the feature will have the ability to understand "conversational interaction and the ability to learn location context and data from the phone."

A Windows Phone voice assistant has been rumored to be in the works for several months now. Both Warren and ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley reported in September that Microsoft has been developing a voice assistant, code-named "Cortana," to compete with similar technologies from Apple and Google. Warren and Foley had speculated that Cortana may arrive on Windows Phone sometime in early 2014.

Other features coming to Windows Phone 8.1, according to Warren, include VPN support, a swipe-accessible notification center, and integration between the People Hub and social networking apps like Facebook and Twitter.

Additionally, Warren indicated that Nokia is working on two new devices based on Windows Phone 8.1. One device will enable gesture-based (in addition to regular touchscreen-based) interactions, and the other will take advantage of Windows Phone 8.1's onscreen buttons, according to Warren.

An October report by SuperSite for Windows' Paul Thurrott, also citing unnamed sources, indicated that Windows Phone 8.1 will do away with the physical Back button, and will offer support for larger devices with 7- to 10-inch screens.

Windows Phone 8 has received three incremental updates so far. The last was Update 3, which began rolling out to users this fall. Microsoft has not officially given any information about Windows Phone 8.1 to date.

About the Author

Gladys Rama (@GladysRama3) is the editor of Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and AWSInsider.net, and the editorial director of Converge360.

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