Microsoft's digital assistant Cortana launched back in 2014 was the Redmond giant's take on the intelligent voice assistants of its counterparts, namely the Google Now and the Siri. Despite all the ohhs and ahhs after hearing about the Cortana at the Build Conference (during the launch of Windows 8.1), many were left disappointed when they came to know that this feature would be US specific for sometime.
Detailing how Microsoft will localise Cortana in accordance to the local market's need and culture, the company said in a blog post, "Cortana is also aware of important cultural touchstones in each market. In France, Cortana celebrates the Cannes Film Festival. In Canada, Cortana loves hockey, and in India, Cortana celebrates cricket star and national hero Sachin Tendulkar." The post also iterates how Cortana will offer jokes catering to the local taste - "What did the half eaten naan say? I wish I was puri." This implies Cortana will understand all colloquial terms.
The Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 brought Cortana to China and the UK in beta and to India, Australia, and Canada in alpha.Before the latest update, Cortana users like me (India; alpha) had limited interests available – news and weather. However, there's a slew of new categories of interests that one can add and can keep a tab on, including very useful features like trip planner, daily routine, local events, eat + drink, fitness tracker, et al.
You will soon be able to drag and drop Live Tiles over the one another to form folders and you will be able to check updates inside them as well. Need to edit them? Simply tap on them to expand. Clearly this fits the bill for bigger displays allowing you to see more by doing less.The Xbox Music and Store will also be seeing some minor improvements and will finally be able to display something more than just the icon. There are number of other security improvements and features that have been added to the mix as well.
Microsoft says it is taking its time to get the local dialects, idioms and speech patterns right before making it available in different regions. "In each market, we focus in on certain key attributes that help us find the right voice talent for Cortana," says Marcus Ash, head of Cortana team at Microsoft.
Despite being initially launched only in the US and UK, India has always been one of Cortana's largest consumer base. Last year, plenty of users enabled Cortana in the country via a workaround. Overwhelmed by the requests and attention, the company launched an alpha version of Cortana in India last year. The version; however, didn't come equipped with all the feature.
We know there has been a lot of enthusiasm about Cortana in many other markets, and we wanted to give more people the ability to start using Cortana. Therefore, we’re also starting a new “alpha” program in three countries: Canada, India, and Australia. This early adopter program will be opt-in and give people the ability to try Cortana using English language models from the US and the UK.
Although, the focus is on “cultural savviness,” Microsoft’s focus with Cortana is more towards understanding geographical context and adapting to language, accent and sensitivities. Cortana in all likelihood will continue to have a uniform experience across markets and geographies.