A lot of new features in Windows Phone 8.1 - to be released around April - are starting to appear. First and foremost, it seems Windows Phone is finally getting a notification centre, which was long overdue. Microsoft originally intended live tiles to replace notifications, but as someone who has used Windows Phone extensively, live tiles are annoying in that they don't always show the notification count, and on top of that, are generally too small to contain enough information, forcing you to go into the application anyway, defeating their purpose. It seems Microsoft has finally figured out that a notification centre is pretty much mandatory these days.
Furthermore, the private SDK releases reveal some more information, including some low-level changes.
There's more interesting stuff in there, like the ability to change the default messaging application, the back button will no longer terminate applications but suspend them, an improved camera application, and more.
All in all, it does look like a worthy update for Windows Phone users, but there's nothing in there that other platforms haven't been enjoying for years now. In other words, it doesn't really contain anything that gives the platform an edge over the competition or that makes it stand out. None of these features is going to convince an iOS or Android user from leaving their platform behind. Still, these are just the new features and changes extracted from the private SDK, so there's bound to be more stuff hiding in the shadows that we don't yet know about.
It's curious though that the preview SDK releases are private, something that was met with lots of complaints back during the run-up Windows Phone 8, since it means developers can't get their stuff ready before the release hits. Luckily, though, the new developer program does mean anyone can get the 8.1 update as soon as it's released.
I'm hoping my relatively old HTC 8X won't be left out of the loop, because this looks like a worthy update for Windows Phone users.