Cortana in China

Microsoft announces Cortana for China, UK with 'alpha' status for India, Australia, and Canada

Cortana heads to UK, China in beta, while India, Canada and Australia get opt-in alpha program

Tonight in Beijing, China, corporate vice president at Microsoft Joe Belfiore announced new Cortana rollout plans for Windows Phone 8.1 users, including a new 'alpha' program to speed up the deployment process. Furthermore, full details about Update 1 for Windows Phone 8.1 were also released, including early access starting next week.

As expected, China and the UK are now getting access to Cortana on a beta status, with substantial customization done for both countries, especially in China where some significant changes to the UI of Cortana have taken place. Additionally, India, Australia, and Canada are now part of an "early adopter program" where users can "opt-in and…try Cortana using English language models from the US and the UK."

China and "Xiao Na"

China is a unique testing ground for Cortana and presented some unique cultural challenges for the development team. Cortana, nicknamed "Xiao Na", works the same way as the current US version, but there are some unique customizations to better suit the Chinese populace. One instance of this change is an optional "alternative form" where instead of being a bouncing blue ball, Cortana has two eyes and "face". Microsoft tells us this has to do with eye contact being necessary in that culture for these types of applications. Moreover, Cortana has some other unique abilities in China, including:

  • Chinese (Mandarin) in voice, text, and speech
  • Specialized suggestions like air quality information in weather cards, information about driving restrictions, and the ability to track local TV shows and celebrities
  • Cortana can look up English words in the Bing Dictionary for people looking to brush up on their English

UK and Cortana finally meet

The UK is also now getting its own customized version of Cortana, with regionalization implemented to better suit the British market, including:

  • UK spellings and pronunciations
  • Bing-provided local data on sports teams (for the EPL), the London Stock Exchange, commuter conditions, and more
  • Localized voice, accent and personality for the UK

Minor updates coming to US users too

Not to be left out, those in the US are seeing some recent changes to Cortana, which we have documented over the last few days. Besides references powered by Foursquare and app recommendations, Microsoft is announcing the following new additions to Cortana:

  • New natural language scenarios
  • Snooze times for reminders
  • Additions to her personality e.g. impressions
  • Now answers 'Where am I?' and related questions
  • Cortana hands-free in your car for phones connected to car Bluetooth kits that are integrated with your contacts list (If your car kit is integrated with your contacts, you can now treat Cortana as a contact to invoke her, simply saying "Call Cortana" and then talking to her as you normally would.)

It is clear from Microsoft actions that Cortana is a high priority release for them, and community feedback is a driving factor in that decision. Users demanding access to Cortana is causing Microsoft to shift resources to speeding up deployment globally and the more customers opt-in, the more data and feedback the Cortana team can absorb, ensuring that those programs continue.

Further release plans for Cortana going forward are currently unknown, but it is evident that if these alpha scenarios see high user-adoption, Microsoft could continue to rollout Cortana on a provisional basis in more regions.

Stay tuned for more coverage on Cortana, including answers to your questions to the Cortana team about the challenges in going international!

Source: Windows Phone Blog


Reader comments

Microsoft announces Cortana for China, UK with 'alpha' status for India, Australia, and Canada



Xiao Na looks cute. Would be great to have that as an option for Cortana.

Stoked to see Microsoft keep pushing the envelope with Cortana!

The market share is higher in Germany and yet there isn't even an alpha.

(Yes I know the potential in China is quite different ;))

Posted via Windows Phone Central App

Yeah thats a total wonder.

They are banking hard on Cortana to increase market share in China which is around 1%.

I think someones smoking too much crack if they think thats gonna boost the numbers into double digits.

That's right, China only has 3.5% market share in a country with a population of 1.36 Billion.

Instead, it makes sense to concentrate on say, Germany with a 5.9% market share in a country with a population of 80 million?

Right. Makes total sense....

Yeah I hope so cause if not its a huge fail!!!!!


They sponsor Lotus F1 under the MS Dynamics banner so it remains to be seen if they actually have a clue!

It shows how good the MS marketing team is when:

a) They put out ads showing their links with Lotus just as they turn crap (partially Renault fault admittedly, not fully Lotus)

b) They decide to have that waste of space called Maldonado, not Grosjean, as their driver representative in said advert.

PS good might be the wrong word .......

that's the question of the year, even in the US. I don’t know how much more of Hams bad luck I can take. Its driving me nuts.

can any1 tell if I change back the region of my phone to India will I have access to use cortana on my phone..?? Like m havin currently using US region ..!

No. At least for me it's not working. She will then disappear from your phone. All data will be kept though. So of you turn it back to U.S. she might be unpinned but all data and settings are still there.

Although I live in the US my phone is set to the UK so I'm looking forward to Cortana next week. Which, by the way, has been delayed yet again... Here's hoping it's out next week. :S

As for the others, I can only say that I don't see why they can't flip the switch for the whole world... Sure they may experience some scaling issues and may possibly offer a sub-par version of Cortana but most people have been generally happy with Cortana's performance when setting their region to the US.


अभी हाथो पर मेहन्दी लगा लगा रखी । रच जायेगी तब इन्डिया आयेगी।

Gamma status, if exists, would be after beta. Alpha is the lowest stage for a product that is being tested by users.

If i'm not mistaken. Alpha is the preliminary stage for Cortana.

Here for India they've already written a basic code for cortana so it works. But cortana only gets info from all the apps and the web and is only available in english. All other dialects and languages have not been tapped into. this phase is where the ideas are just begun. beta phase is where they test what is made and also let users experience it and give back feedbacks. in beta improvements and additions still come into play.

This is just my thoughts. Any one can give a much clear idea, like technicaly please do explain. Interested in knowing.

Wpcentral editors??


These are software testing concepts. Alpha is testing done at microsofts offices under controlled conditions. Beta is tesing done in real world through end users.

You can choose the US or UK version of Cortana, so you'll get most of the features without hacking and just lacking some regional content.

I think MS prioritizes the countries that have a unique culture or language. Such as China with its mandarin and UK with British accent.

Not everyone! Some speak French, others speak both at the same time. I hope Cortana can understand multiple languages at the same time or at least have a button to swap language like I can do with the keyboard.

True, but even in Quebec most people speak English.

Honestly, it has to be because of the ridiculous east coast accents as well as the Quebecois English accent.

There are huge parts of Quebec where most people are monolingually French speaking. There are parts of New Brunswick that are the same. There are allophone pockets in every major cities where most people speak neither French nor English. There are areas in the north where little English is spoken.

Canada has very high rates of immigration- almost twice the rate of the US per capita and second in the world only to Australia, per capita, but with far more diverse sources of immigration than Australia has- and is incredibly linguistically diverse.

It basically means you can access the US (or UK if you prefer since you have the same head of State) version without any regional hacking. It's not so much alpha, as beta without the localisation. It's good to see MS listening and giving people this option, better than their usual "US only" stance.

every year I go to Montreal for Formula 1 and we come across people in restraints that have to get someone to translate what we are saying. so no not everyone speaks English in Canada.

I really don't know when HK will get it, or "if", indeed. In many international things nowadays Hong Kong is simplistically just bundled into the Greater China, so therefore... China market. 7 million is not a big number for a language group, especially when expected to use English or Mandarin anyway.

Where did you read that as the article doesn't mention it at all and I would expect wp central to have mentioned it as well!!?!

Well that just plain sucks considering that for the UK and China we were told "within 2 weeks", looks like that turned out to be a complete steaming pile of BS then!!!!

The last 'official' comment (albeit twitter) was in less than two weeks, which would mean latest by THIS friday. I knew I should have taken the bet that it wouldn't materialise till later. There must have been an 'unforseen event' :)

Does this mean Cortana UK will get to show Formula 1 under Sports?! Cortana US doesnt have a clue what F1 is, and what makes it worse is that I'm in the Philippines. lol

yeah, being the third biggest market I had some hope, but it's as always, our unique variant of language is too much of a hassle to localize.
at least with UK Cortana I can finally use temperature and distances in an unit system that makes sense.

India only gets English and not Hindi. So many people in India do not know English well, so we are in the same boat.

The more involved you get with Cortana English version and give suggestions, the earlier you will get Cortana localized to your language.


I hope that this 'alpha' program will soon be expanded to other countries and languages and that Xiao Na will be intensively marketed in China and boost Windows Phone sales. At least Windows Phone isn't a 'monopoly' there.

hmmm, would be nice to get some Aussie Cortana in this end of the world... even in Alpha, it'll beat getting the weather in Fahrenheit... Hangin out for those details on how to "opt in" :D

No need to change. It will be a sort of keep-your-own-region but use Cortana's UK version (in India) or US version (elsewhere)

Sucks that the UK people will lose Jen Taylor's voice. At least for the Halo fans I know in that population.

And why is the BPL for the UK only? I would love that hear in the States.

Its not that BPL for UK.. It is that Cortana now knows what BPL is.. Wish she also knows what IPL is..

BPL = Barclays Premier League or English Premier League (English league for Soccer clubs)

IPL = Indian Premier League (Indian league for T20 Cricket)

They are the top domestic sporting events in the respective countries.

The 'using language models from the US and UK' for those in Canada, India and Australia should hopefully mean it's switchable. Unless they've just decided Canada gets the US Cortana while India/Aus get the UK one.

It will be switchable. We will have the option to change our language to English(US) or English(UK) and Cortana will work accordingly. At least that is what I think.

UK: replace all punctuation with 'innit'

Canada: replace all punctuation with 'eh'

Australia: replace all punctuation with 'mate'

There, all done.

C姐居然变猪鼻,强烈愤慨! I've decided to keep using the English Cortana in regards of the ugly snout-like Chinese Cortana.

If you are enrolled in the Dev Preview program and install the GDR1 next week, Cortana for India will be available. However, it will be your choice if you wanna enable/use her or not.

I wouldn't think so. Microsoft usually treats Ireland separately from the UK when it announces things so they probably would have done the same thing here.

"Its not about political history. Its about sending a message. This world deserves a better class of personal voice assistants and MS is gonna give it to them."

Why not allow those who are interested to opt-in to the "early adaptor program", why only India, Australia, and Canada?

Hmm nothing about spanish Cortana u.u i really hope that after this countries have beta and Alfa version the next one in the list be some Latin American country like my loved Mexico :3 or at least Spain for been able to use Cortana in Spanish :P

Sería muy interesante oír a Cortana en español, lo único malo es que con cuatro meses de uso ya me acostumbre a la Cortana gringa :p Espero que hagan una buena elección de la voz en nuestro idioma. And we need the option to set the forecast in Celsius.

:O oooo jajaa casi no comento aquí pero cada vez que lo hago me responde un compatriota (/•-•)/ jaja xD Y si espero que escojan una buena voz, lo optimo seria la voz original de Cortana en español (no tengo idea quien la dobla :P) pero si no al menos una parecida. And yes we need Celsius!! :P

This was my question too, the impression from the article is Cortana now available in the UK but its not showing in the store.

How about Cortana using the phone's regional format. I want to use US language Cortana with Celsius temperatures and Monday as the first day of the week.

Finally MS means bussiness first they brought live lock screen to 512mb devices now GDR 1 and cortana to more countries . Better from MS than playing the waiting game to get every feature to be inch perfect to be rolled out

Can't wait to switch region to UK.  Can't wait to get all weathers and data in Metric values.

Cortana can always answer "where am I?" since a month ago, even though I'm using it in SIngapore.  And she will also pull up a map location.

And I really like getting the direction home by saying "let's go home", or "get me home"

Actually I don't think you can buy apps if you are not logged into your own country's app store or have the country's credit card for payment.

So I buy the apps I need from Windows Phone Singapore and switch my region to USA so I could use cortana.

You're wrong. I buy all my apps within the US marketplace, even though I live in Sweden. This way I always get to pay in dollars which comes cheaper for me. I use PayPal to pay with but you can buy Microsoft Gift Cards online to charge your account instead of using credit cards and pay with them instead.

Good to know.  I have to switch my payment method.  My paypal got log into the Singapore store for some reason.  And I cannot add it to the US store.  I may be doing something wrong...hmmm

No I can't. Paypal app is not even available on my wallet app.  This is so weird.

I tried to do it online in my windows phone account and it's asking me for a US paypal address.

You might want to put in a fake address then. Not like it really matters. Just think of an address and look up a US area code, 90201 for example which should be Bell Garden, CA

I just checked.  Doesn't work for me.  With Paypal, it requires a USA address for payment info.  

You have a US address connected to your paypal account?

Got a Swedish address on my PayPam, otherwise I can't link my Swedish card to it. It's weird that this is happening to you, usually, it just asks for PayPal email and password and if you have one, it should work with just this and nothing else.

Well, the Alpha program gives me a little bit hope that roll out will go faster then we might have tought.

It does suggest in the article that Microsoft is responding to the massive pressure of users demanding Cortana in any state, Alpha, Beta or Omega....

Unlike some have opined I would be happier with a buggy alpha/beta version than no version at all.

MSFT offices in China get raided as part of an 'anti-competition' investigation and then MSFT launch Cortana there... Does anyone find that odd?

We still don't have MixRadio or the My Commute function in HERE Drive+, so when (or if) we get Cortana would be anyone's guess.