Windows Phone 8.1 Nears Release? – Report

Microsoft quickly removes a reference to Windows Phone 8.1, with no official word yet on its release date

Microsoft could be in the final stages of readying its Windows Phone 8.1 smartphone OS update, according to an eagle-eyed blogger.

This is because a reference to the mobile OS was spotted by Ubergizmo’s Tyler Lee, on the official Windows Phone Website.

Release Date

A screenshot shows the words “Windows Phone 8.1” alongside version 8 under the Features page. Microsoft has since scrubbed the page of any mention of the update.

mysteriy windows phoneWhile its official launch date is up in the air, the updates brief appearance on an official Website may indicate that the company is gearing up for an imminent release. Lee wrote, “Microsoft has made an official reference to Windows Phone 8.1, although this by no means confirms when the update will be released, but we reckon if Microsoft is already putting it on their website, they should be pretty close.”

Microsoft is expected to unveil and perhaps release Windows Phone 8.1 at its upcoming Build developer conference in San Francisco (2-4 April). The move could potentially spark interest from the developer community, which has flocked to the rival mobile app ecosystems of Apple iOS and Google Android.

Windows Phone 8.1 is rumoured to include several enhancements and a smattering of new features, including Microsoft’s answer to Siri.

Named Cortana, after the AI character in the company’s Halo video game series, the voice-enabled digital assistant will offer similar functionality to Apple Siri and Google Now. Cortana will leverage machine learning technology from the company’s Bing search platform to deliver contextually driven search results.

Encouraging Gains

Despite generally favorable reviews – especially when it’s paired with Nokia’s handsets – Windows Phone 8 has failed to set the mobile sales charts on fire. It trails well behind Android and iOS in the worldwide smartphone market, although the mobile OS has notched some encouraging gains in Europe and Latin America of late.

According to a report from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, Windows Phone overtook Apple’s iOS in Italy during the three months that ended in September 2013. In Latin America, Windows Phone saw its share rise to 5.8 percent during the same period, up from 4.5 percent a year ago.

IDC reported that during 3Q13, Windows Phone’s share of worldwide smartphone shipments grew a staggering 156 percent year over year. IDC Research Manager Ramon Llamas said in a statement, “Android and Windows Phone continued to make significant strides in the third quarter.” Both OSes compete in the low-cost handset segment. “Despite their differences in market share, they both have one important factor behind their success: price,” added Llamas.

Microsoft is also apparently courting OEMs in its quest to popularise Windows Phone. Two Indian smartphone makers, Lava and Karbonn, have reportedly scored free Windows Phone licenses. In addition, the software titan is rumoured to be mulling drastic cuts (up to 70 percent) to its OEM licensing fees.

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Originally published on eWeek.