Windows Phone 8.1 reportedly getting a Notification Center and personal assistant

With each new update, Microsoft's Windows Phone platform resolves more and more concerns that we've had ever since its initial launch three years ago. According to Tom Warren at The Verge, Microsoft has a new update in the works -- currently known to us as Windows Phone 8.1 -- that will implement a new Notification Center as well as a personal assistant that will be closer to Google Now and Apple's Siri technology. This new version of Windows Phone will reportedly be revealed at the company's BUILD conference in April.

So how exactly will the new Windows Phone Notification Center work? According to Warren's sources, it'll be accessed the same way iOS and Android users are accustomed to: by swiping down from the top of the screen. Not necessarily the most original idea, but if this is true, it would at least be much more familiar (and perhaps more compelling) to anyone looking to switch to Windows Phone from one of its competing platforms. That's not to say it will be identical, however, as a short swipe would bring up Quick Settings, while a long swipe would display your full history of notifications.

Also, WP8.1 is where Microsoft's Cortana feature would finally come in handy. This will offer much more interaction and personalization than the current Bing Search, in that it will feature more of a contextual learning experience based on location and other personal data. These new features will help make the new WP assistant more competitive with Google Now and Siri.

Finally, Warren mentions a few other features in the works for WP8.1: independent volume controls (ringtone and media would be separated), additional Enterprise support with VPN, Facebook and Twitter support in the People Hub and Bing Smart Search results that bring Windows Phone closer to its desktop counterpart. Xbox Music and Video are also rumored to be separated in the new update. Nokia's also reportedly working on two smartphones that will come out around the same time as 8.1, one of which involves off-the-glass gestures and another one that utilizes virtual navigation buttons.