Cortana comes to the UK and China; coming to India, Australia and Canada as 'alpha' release

It’s been almost four months since we got our first official look at Cortana, Microsoft’s digital personal assistant, at the launch of Windows Phone 8.1. Since then, she’s been available to users of the 8.1 Preview for Developers and, more recently, on devices that have so far received the Windows Phone 8.1 update that’s now rolling out worldwide.

But Cortana has been available only in the United States… until now. Today, Microsoft announced that the assistant is rolling out to the United Kingdom and China, finally bringing localized support to those markets.

Cortana has been extensively reworked and enhanced for her début in these parts of the world. While considerable work was obviously needed to provide support in Chinese (Mandarin), the transition from the US to the UK may seem simple by comparison. Even so, Microsoft’s development teams still had their hands full when it came to the task of bringing her to Britain.

A shared language was clearly a strong foundation on which to build, but Cortana has also had to be reworked to support the rich variety of regional accents to be found across the UK, for example. Different parts of the country also use words that are not widely used elsewhere, and these too must be integrated into Cortana’s vocabulary to allow her to interact with users everywhere – not just those in certain areas.

This was a considerable challenge for the team behind Cortana, and it’s one that they will continue to face as they prepare to roll out the assistant to other markets. But the development work that they put in for the UK and China has been invaluable in helping them to prepare for future releases in more countries, as Marcus Ash, Group Program Manager for Cortana, noted in a tweet a couple of weeks ago.

The UK also gets British spelling customizations, and more localized content, such as sports results, travel information and stocks. Crucially - and, perhaps, controversially - Cortana also gets a British accent, rather than the more familiar American version, voiced by Cortana voice actress Jen Taylor from the Halo games. 

In China, Cortana gets a new look, ditching the twin-circle logo in favour of a cartoon face, nicknamed 'Xiao Na', along with different animations and sounds. As in the UK, she gets special localized content, including air quality information and details of driving restrictions. The development and engineering work to get her ready for Chinese users was done in China itself. 

Just like in the United States, Cortana’s rollout to the UK and China is officially a beta, so the system won’t be perfect just yet, and you should expect to encounter a few misunderstandings and glitches here and there. But Cortana's international travels don't end with the UK and China. 

Microsoft announced today that users in Australia, India and Canada will shortly be able to try out Cortana, through an early adopter program that will give them access to an 'alpha' version of the assistant. This will be available in English only, using the English language models built for the US and UK. 

For users in the United States, new features are also being added to Cortana from today, including improved natural language support, added personality features and better in-car Bluetooth support. 

Availability will be tied to the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 release, which Microsoft also announced today. It will begin rolling out next week, and continue over the weeks and months ahead. It will be available as part of the Preview for Developers within the next week or so. 

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15 Comments

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So I need to be on the Developer program to get Cortana in the AU under this Alpha or is it rolling out before the GDR1 update? That update sounds like it will be a early 2015 update :-/

I agree with the sentiment. The Developer Preview is literally a lifesaver for people like us that have no patience

Cortana, remind me to buy eggs next time I am at the supermarket.

Sorry, I can't do that right now. Our offices are being raided.

I'm totally amazed by the quality of Microsoft's latest works and speed.

Wish it would be available for all platforms in the future.

lt8480 said,
It will probably get rolled out to the xbox and windows but I wouldn't expect it on any competitor devices.

they have stated before it will be on other platform, but first they should finish it on windows phone .

I can bet it will be available on iOS and android too.

>> See this "Today, Microsoft announced that the assistant is rolling out to the United Kingdom and China"
>> Get excited
>> Check for [Dev Preview] Phone Updates
>> See this "Your phone is up to date"
>> Realise " this update should be rolling out next week"
>> FFFFFFFUUUUUUUU........