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Microsoft has added many new features to the release of Windows 10 and one of the new technologies is Cortana. The self-declared most "personal" personal assistant, Cortana is more than just voice commands. Indeed, the service is powered by Bing and numerous cloud-based knowledge technologies from the software giant.

Considering how important Cortana is many people worldwide may wonder why they do not have it on their Windows 10 computer.

The answer is both simple and complicated. Let's talk about what it takes to get Cortana on your computer and where the assistant can be found today.

Cortana today – Where art thou?

Before we get to the intricacies of designing Cortana for each culture, here is where Cortana is live today for all Windows 10 users.

  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • China
  • France
  • Italy
  • Germany
  • Spain

If you are a participant in the Windows Insider Program, you get early access to new OS features and also 'beta' Cortana in newer countries. The following countries are soon getting Cortana to trial:

  • Japan
  • Australia
  • Canada (English)
  • India (English)

Later this year, Cortana expands yet again for Windows Insiders to the following countries:

  • Brazil
  • Mexico
  • Canada (French)

Of course, if your country is not on the above list no explanation of Microsoft's difficulties matters to you. All the same, it behooves you to read on. Learn what it takes to get Cortana on your PC in your part of the world, you may find it interesting.

Making Cortana

So why do you not have Cortana enabled on your new Windows 10 PC?

The simple answer is that Cortana is not just Bing search with voice bootstrapped onto it. If that were the case, then Microsoft would've and should've released it globally on Day 1 for Windows 10. Instead, Cortana ties deeply into a country's culture and local networks for information. This culture and language stuff is the complicated part.

If you have ever studied sociology, cultural anthropology or read National Geographic, you likely know that cultures vary widely in social interaction. Small things, like smiling too much or laughing, are all handled differently. Of course, some of these are rooted in cultural stereotypes too.

The Cortana team needs to tailor Cortana for each country and culture to behave in a way that respects their traditions and behavior. Marcus Ash, Group Program Manager for Cortana on Windows, talked about these challenges in a recent video seen below.

The most obvious example is how Cortana looks and acts in China. We wrote about Cortana aka "Xiao Na" last June:

"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 for that culture for these types of applications."

Another customization for China is for Xiao Na to provide air quality information in weather cards, stats about driving restrictions, and the ability to track local TV shows and celebrities.

These abilities for Cortana in China are very helpful for residents, but you could imagine the infrastructure needed to make all of that happen. Even more perplexing is the research required to learn what is important to people in one area versus another country. Air quality information is certainly used more frequently by Zhang Wei in Beijing versus Dianne Smith in Colorado.

Similarly, Cortana bows by default in Japan because "a high level of politeness is valued." See in the image below provided by Microsoft.

Another example is who voices Cortana. Although Cortana uses some computer-generated speech, a lot of it is a recorded human being. While this sounds like a trivial thing e.g. just hire someone to read cue cards into a microphone, even this part of the task is harder than expected. Once again, Marcus Ash detailed this process in a July 2015 article on the Windows Blog:

"Voice talent is carefully considered for each market. For example, in the Chinese market, the feedback requested a personal assistant whose voice sounded like she was smiling. And in UK, customers described their personal assistant as an "English Rose," which translated to a voice that sounds easy-going, with slightly self-deprecating modesty. In each market, we focus in on certain key attributes that help us find the right voice talent for Cortana."

There is also a consideration for "local language, idioms, and speech patterns". Indeed, in my former life I was a linguist who studied idioms, specifically how the brain generates them (they are more like canned phrases then generative grammar). Any second language learner can tell you that learning common sayings or cultural idioms is one of the most challenging aspects due to their opaque meaning. For example, you cannot decipher "dressed to the nines" based on its component words.

Using idioms and common phrases are important to language and culture because the conversation feels more authentic to people. When everything is too literal, our senses go off letting us know this person is not one of us. The same applies if you are creating A.I. or in this case, Cortana.

Wrap Up

The important takeaway is that building Cortana is not just a simple flip of the switch. From voice, Cortana's avatar, idioms, and local services like smog, traffic, or restaurants all need to be considered. Cultural research, design, voice talent, programming, and testing are all required. This is very different than just text-string translation found in the OS itself.

I suppose Microsoft could release a neutered version of Cortana in other countries, but it would denigrate what Cortana is meant to represent. In this sense, Microsoft's personal assistant is less about 1's and 0's and more creating something that is lasting and profound.

Unfortunately, there is no telling how long it will take to get Cortana to all the major regions. Nevertheless, hopefully, you now know some of the obstacles that the Cortana team is challenged with in making their personal assistant a reality in your neck of the woods.

And remember, if someone asks why they don't yet have Cortana, share this article with them to let them know!

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

171 Comments
  • Thing is, Canada already has alpha Cortana on WP 8.1, so transitioning that product to w10 should not have been complicated...
  • That's what I'm thinking! But maybe Microsoft just has to adapt the phone alpha to allow it to do the new PC functions like finding files and working in Edge.
  • You could be, and probably are correct. That being said, I wish they would have moved it over as an alpha product, and added features as time went on. Makes it so I can't test W10 mobile as Cortana is used daily by me
  • I have no doubt that there is definitely fine tuning to get Cortana on Windows 10. I'm hoping with the amount of Win10 users that they will be able to expand Cortanas functions here in Canada to match what she can do in the US. I have to admit I'm still confused why we're getting Cortana after China, France, Italy, Germany, Spain and the UK anyways. While I understand they have larger populations, the regional specialization has to be a lot more difficult. Oh well, we're getting there!
  • In future Cortana articles please include that users who are not in those countries can still try it by switching their region to US etc.!
  • Exactly... You would figure they would have collected some usable usage data from the Cdn. alpha users to build their database.
  • I'm assuming that since 10 is close for Mobile, alpha will not go to beta on 8.1? Hoping it will not alpha on mobile come public release on phone for 10...
  • I agree. I think it would be a REALLY good idea for Microsoft to just release this "nuetered" cortana to the rest of the world, so in the meantime of waiting for their culturally approriate version to arrive, they can at least use the services it offers. In Canada here, I was pretty used to using cortana basically daily, and now i'm on W10 Mobile and it's rough not having Cortana. If they did this, then Microsoft could just let each country know when they are working on/ about to release the new "culture specific" version.
  • Microsoft needs to enable Cortana worldwide with English language!!!!
  • Well, that and the fact that Canada is really close to the US when you talk culture and linguistics. Arguably, the closest country in that matter even. Releasing it in Canada should have been an absolute no brainer. The US version that I'm using on my phone has no problem understanding me or offering me local suggestions so what's the hold up? It's times like these where it is really hard to like Microsoft. They'll go out and do something amazing and then half-ass the execution. Either way, I'm just using the US version of Cortana until they get their act together.
  • Great article. People who wonder why Microsoft can't just have it available in every market from the get-go really need to read this.
  • BS
    I have cortana here in Brazil, it works fine, the only side effect being that changing region breaks other things in the OS, like the Music and Videos apps. MS should let you choose to have cortana in US-English regardless of region like Siri and Google Now and every single piece of software in the world.
    Maybe some things aren't optimized, like the temperatures and distances in US's crazy units, but I can live with that, it would be a choice.
  • Completely agree, I don't want to use my local language anyway as I want Cortana to act in US english, or UK one will do as well. The point being Microsoft should not be forcing you to use a localy cultural version of Cortana, if you want to use the English one instead without screwing over all the other settings because you had to change the OS region. Microsoft needs to realise that in todays world a LOT of people move around between countries and regions, but that does not mean they want to change the language of their personal assistant just because they happen to move to a different region of the world.    
  • Agree 100% cant imagine how i would get on if i worked in China for a year and had to use the Chinese version instead of English this is a massive oversight in my opinion
  • Cortana is more than just voice commands. Yes, totally agree and she is my virtual wife, too. :))
  • "Just higher someone" seems a bit off...
  • Yeah, that's my concern that people think this is just hiring issue. So much more goes into it mostly because the Cortana team has set high standards for itself and its product.
  • No Cortana in the UK, at least on my PC. Told me so itself...
  • You may have the wrong language setup. You need keyboard, region and speech-language files all on the same language for it to work. If one of those is off, nu bueno. I had a PC that only had UK speech files, but region and keyboard were U.S. Cortana said it was not available too.
  • Same on my parents PC, strangely they had US English speech files while the rest of the machine was UK English.
  • Keyboard?! What on earth does the keyboard have to do with anything? It is bad enough that they tie it to the region setting in the phone, but this is just getting more ridiculous.
  • Not really, the language needs to match across the board for Cortana to work. Keyboard, Language and Region set to UK English is all you need. No drama!
  • Big Drama, what if I bought my laptop in the US, but live in the UK and want to use UK Cortana and UK region; why the hell should I change my keyboard to UK and screw myself over because now the symbols on the physical US keyboard no longer match the UK keyboard layout determined by windows. p.s. for people that don't know keyboards in different countries have different key layouts and some can differ to a huge degree.
  • That is totally #$%&ed up. I speak English and live in Finland with a Finnish keyboard. The PC is set to US English. So no Cortana for me. Thanks for nothing MS.
  • It's once again Microsoft being stupid as always. I just don't get why you can't set up what version of Cortana you want to use independently of the region/keyboard and other system wide settings. So in effect Microsoft is discriminating against any foreigner that might happen to live in a country other then their own; taking an example from the article; if I was Chinese and moved to the US I would likely set my region to US to get relevant results in the OS, but I still want my personal assistant to be Chinese because I am Chinese; similar with the Japan example, if I move from Japan to US, Cortana can now disrespect me by not bowing because I happen to set my region to US, which in effect changed Cortana as well; the examples could go on, but this just shows how out of touch Microsoft is with reality.    
  • You live in a very "what if" world. No wonder you have big drama lol.
  • If you never moved to a different country in your life or lived for an extended period of time in a different country I can see how it can be hard to comprehend, but in Europe it is very common to live in a different state then is your 'home' one, so in this regard tying Cortana to national borders is unwise.
  • it's not just an hypothetical case, I bought my Surface in Canada, with an US keyboard, and I live in Brazil, so I use the Portuguese language with the US-International keyboard layout. Everything works fine, I can even write accents like á or à or ã. Just Cortana bitches about, and there are no ABNT2 (brazilian keyboard standard) typecovers.
  • I don't know if you're an American, but it's usually Americans who have difficulty imagining this problem could be anything but theoretical. The issue John20212 describes is an exact description of my life over the last 20 years. It also applies to almost every person of the 80 or so I currently work with. Very few of them were born and raised in the country we chose as our home.
  • Well this is very common, I'm English living in Australia. Australia uses a US keyboard, but to get Cortana I have to set my region to UK and language to English UK. I do the language bit anyway, but when I search for stuff I get results in the UK. Surely it should know the computer is not locates in the UK and give me Australian search results?
  • This!!!!!
  • That's my biggest problem with Windows. I live and work in Sweden but I can't speak Swedish... I can't set the keybord, region and speech-language in Swedish/Sweden... All the MSN news, Cortana... Looks like nothing will work for me, as long as I can't have them in English together with a Swedisk keyboard etc...
  • Go into options (open installed default language) and download all the speech bits. and yes make sure the region/language kbd are correct/same  too
  • As a Brit, I prefer the American voice artist used for Cortana. I find the voice they chose for the UK robotic and monotonous. I imagine if they asked people they'd have probably said the same...
  • It may still be using mostly computer generated voices. The US version was rather iterative getting slightly less robotic over several months.
  • Yeah, she's a bit flat... Like voice wise. Although she's fine, she could do with a few refinements.
  • That"s what I was thinking to lad!
    Hope MS is coming up with some better actress for the UK Cortana.
  • I would love to have Emma Watson's voice for UK cortana.Not that i fancy her, although i might a bit
  • +1
  • We should be given the opportunity to choose which voice we hear. When I speak to Cortana I want to hear Cortana, i.e. Jen Taylor, not some vanilla flavoured nobody. It'd be like Disney releasing a Mickey Mouse digital assistant and changing his voice for each country.
  • I understand the idea but the strategy is simply unnecessarily restrictive. It should be a check box option -> Do you want to activate Cortana no matter it is no available in your language/region? Yes -> Are you super sure? Yes! And above would be even less ridiculous that no having the option!
  • I agree 100% An existing English Cortana is a lot better than a non -existing Cortana... Releasing W10M without Cortana in many countries will just increase the sweetness of iOS/Android as their versions of Cortana ARE available. MS is just a so strange company...
  • I fully agree. on my wp 8.1 I have cortana activated (US Region) and it is so much better than the alpha on my wife's phone (Canada Region)
  • That's the funny thing. US Cortana works flawlessly for me here too. It understands me well, knows my interests and can easily pull local results even in remote areas. What's the hold up then? Canada is as close to the states as it gets, releasing it in English should have been a no brainer. Could have taken their sweet time for French because that would have made sense at least.
  • 100%
  • Beautiful article! Thank you! :)
  • When will be Cortana in Spanish in U.S.?
  • Why Microsoft does not add a Cortana head instead of a circle? (or body?)
  • Plus Cortana won't work for kids. I think she wants you to be 14+
  • My daughter had to wait until get 13th birthday before Cortana would talk to her. Before it was simply a Bing search button.
  • She needs a Microsoft account, and I think you need to be over 13 for one IIRC.
  • cortana coming to japan, nice! hopefully it wont be long before it goes to windows phone. along with offline maps, although that is still a longshot...
  • There are no offline maps for Japan, but at least the Maps app in Windows 10 is pulling from both Bing and HERE now, since Bing has always had maps of Japan and HERE didn't.
  • Off subject but where have the premier league predictions gone (uk)
  • That makes a lot of sense for cultures that are clearly much different than the U.S. but what's so different about Canada that we can't use the same Cortana here?
  • Cortana needs to say "sorry" alot :D
  • DOesn't Canada have laws for things like everything that is written in English also needs to be made available in French? And how about your laws where a certian percentage of content has to be produced in Canada? Those may not apply, but as I have been saying here everytime we get one of those stupid "When in my country" comments, or as this very article shows, there are many reasons that people just don't think of, but a company such as Microsoft does.
  • Well, as you say I guess there must be some reason, but the language laws do not apply to the internet.  If that were the case we wouldn't be allowed access to 99% of the websites out there.  Besides, only Quebec has those stupid laws, the rest of us are normal.  Canadian content laws also do not apply to the internet.  That's for television shown on Canadian networks, and music played on Canadian radio stations.  I guess it's possible they want to give her some Canadian nuances just for fun, but is that really a good enough reason to delay releasing her in Canada by a year?
  • Only in regards to media being created or offered in Canada. For example: A new TV channel would have to make sure some % of the content is Canadian. Doesn't apply to Cortana because it is not a media serving platform. It's just a phone feature. Siri in Canada does fine too. The way I see it, the US version works perfectly in Canada. It has no trouble understanding me and pulling local data. In effect then, there should be no issues releasing the English version here with "French support coming later" but I suspect they want to get the French thing right before releasing. Makes no sense to me (look at how Siri is managed) but can't complain when the US one works just fine.
  • The delay is because they are teaching her about hockey, maple syrup and imputing where all the Tim Horton's & places to buy Kraft dinner are located at the moment, ey.
  • How would I know, Daniel.
  • Still no cortana for Russia
  • In Russia, Cortana searches for you!?!?
  • Nice one :D
  • So in finland cortana would tell where is closest Alko (Liquor store in finland) :D
  • Or it would tell you which Finnish companies Microsoft buys next and destroys, costing thousands of jobs.
  • Probably one running huge losses and is right on the verge of making those job cuts itself?
  • I fully understand that Cortana isn't available in the Netherlands yet, but I (and basically every other Dutchie) would love an English "international" version of Cortana since we all speak English pretty well and we'd have no problem talking English to her. I changed my language on my phone to get her to work but it doesn't seem to be that easy on my PC, which is a huge shame...
  • As a Dutchie in Germany it's worse. You have to set it to German to be able to use all features. I honestly don't understand why Microsoft forces a language upon anyone based on location...
  • It's probably because Microsoft is out of touch with reality. Especially in Europe countless people move between states for study or work, and why the hell should they have to change Cortana's language to a local one they don't understand as well to get all relevant local search results.  
  • Same in Denmark, we're taught English from third grade, and we don't dub movies other than kids movies - most from their teens and up speak English well enough to handle Cortana...
  • I would really like to enable us cortana. I do not care for localisation, 95% of my interactions on the pc are in english anyway and I also do not need local resources right now. I want the reminder function and basic stuff like that. However since there is no way to switch cortana to EN-US without switching the whole system, activating her means to break the store, because payment and config is locked to the local store and that switches with the language selection. Can we please just get a setting that allows us to set a system for language a and location b? pretty please? with sprinkels on top? maybe even a cherry? I have had my windows set to english until win 8 then I no longer could do so or I was auto-locked out of buying music and apps. So all my programs run in english but I have to have my OS in german and can not have cortana because of it ... this is just stupid.
  • I have US region, an international credit card and everything works just fine. And I'm not an US resident.
  • So now to use all features of Windows in English I should get an international credit card? Yeah I am sure many people will find that very useful.  
  • that is my problem - i had my credit card way before i ever installed win8. i bought software via the microsoft store and entered my data back in the day where location was not an issue like it is now. now all my information is linked to my central european account. if i switch nothing fits anymore. yes i could get a new credit card and change all my data to fit but why should i have to do this? i like my data to be correct, and it should also be in microsofts interest to gather correct data. should i have to input incorrect data to use a system? this setting is just illogical, language for system, apps and programs should be independent of language/region in the store.
  • Microsoft probably just wants international users that want the OS in English to just ignore all modern apps and the store and all Microsoft services. #MicrosoftStupidity
  • I want that cute asian cortana. The english one is boring.
  • I agree. Maybe not that one necessarily, but a more personal one for sure. I agree that the circle/ball is boring.
  • Reminds me of something I read years ago - I think it was in a Muslim country where there was a big uproar against Microsoft. The issue was that Microsoft had wizards to walk you through a task. One of the icons for the wizards was a magic wand. To some people it looked like a cigarette, and smoking was strictly forbidden for the religion, so Microsoft was attacking the religion. Many of the people seem to think that Microsoft hates them by not supporting some of their software in certian countries. But if they were to ship their software in those countries, then they would get upset because of cultural differences and complain that Microsoft is not catering to them specifically. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
  • Well, we're not all living in the dark ages... Most of us could handle little discrepancies like that without lifting an eyebrow.
  • >Instead, Cortana ties deeply into a country's culture and local networks for information. I'll take that risk! Give me the US version of Cortana, I don't care! 99% of all features will still work and that's what I need. I'm very happy with Cortana on my Lumia 930, why wouldn't I be on Windows 10, even here in Norway?
  • Exactly, I want the US Cortana, but I want my local region for everything else, and my keyboard language set to the layout of my actual keyboard. This crap should not be tied together in any way.  
  • In Finland we will NEVER get to use Cortana.
  • Is that Baymax? From Big hero 6 movie.. Hahaha. :)
  • Haha :D
  • While I understand needing to tailor things for different regions, I wish region and language weren't locked together. For example, if you're an American working in in France for a few months, you might want your region set your region to France to get local France info, but your language set to US English so that you get the American Cortana and idioms, etc instead of French Cortana and idioms.
  • On the one hand I understand their rationale, but I think they should still offer an easy way for enthusiasts in an uncovered region to configure Cortana for one of the available countries.
    For example in Canada and Australia there are millions of Americans, Brits and Chinese residents and the whole world has been indoctrinated with American movies, TV shows and culture.
    Why can't we pick one of these versions to use on our Windows 10 PC's and phones without jumping through hoops to change our region?
  • And I meant to say that the more regions they allow you use Cortana, the quicker they will get feedback on the cultures and local usage for those countries. Australia shouldn't take long - there's more culture in yoghurt!
  • Some of this makes sense. Some of it seems like excuses. All if it also ignores a set of very common scenarios: What if I'm a U.S. citizen (has Cortana) who's moved to Austria (doesn't have Cortana)? What if I'm from the U.K. (has Cortana), who's moved to Brazil (doesn't have Cortana)? What if I'm German (has Cortana) who now works and lives just accross the border in Switzerland (doesn't have Cortana) Where you live has absolutely nothing to do with how you talk, or your cultural expectations. I don't understand why this is impossible for MS to understand, but apparently it is. None of these linguistic or cultural preferences have anything to do with the artificial lines accross continents which we call national borders. All of this is related to, and only to, the language and cultural preferences of the person using the device. If I live in a country which isn't yet supported, then it's very forgivable when Cortana can't tell me what is currently running in Cinemas. Unfortunately, setting a region where Cortana isn't available deactivates her completely. That is a joke. It's even a joke for people who do reside in the U.S. because any U.S. citizen that travels will tell you that their usual queries ("where is the closest supermarket?") won't work reliably when visiting unsupported countries. That person will have no idea what sort of information is or isn't available at their current location. Cortana will just appear to have stopped working. The point is, tying Cortana's all-or-nothing activation to a region setting is rediculous. The only thing that makes sense is to have Cortana omit features based on your current GPS position. Maybe also have a page that lists the features Cortana supports at your current location. This rediculousness of tying availability to a region really needs to stop. If you speak U.S. English, you should be able to activate and use those parts of Cortana that don't require anything beyond English (chit chat, calculations, questions that are answered by wikipedia, etc), no matter what your region setting is.
  • I think they can't do that because it will, in part, destroy some stuff. In México we don't have Cortana (just yet) but I can read and speak english, but can't write (as you may note) very well. My accent will maybe confuse the algorithm and they may ended with garbage in the database. Remember that Cortana is constantly learning and making adjusts. So that's why I think they can't make that risk.
  • I thought I was clear that this has nothing to do with accents. A Texan will still speak like a Texan, even after he's moved to Mexico. At least I've never heard of a Texan suddenly picking up a Spanish accent after moving south. I live in Switzerland. I speak three languages fluently. You can tell by my writing, but verbally North Americans can't tell that English isn't my native language. Most think I'm from California. Cortana understands my English better than it does many American's. Again, my point is that none of this should have anything to do with a region setting. It's not the country I CURRENTLY live in that defines how I speak.
  • Man, and how you determine if that person is really a USA citizen (in this case) with the accent that Cortana knows? Or how can you tell Cortana "hey, I speak perfect english so allow me because I can't damage your database"? That's why I said they can't make that risk. And in fact, is just a guess
  • Ehm, a couple million people in the U.S. speak English with far stronger accents than I have. If you really think Cortana needs a mechanism to ensure people can speak the language they claim they can, then you need that mechanism for the U.S. too. How should that work? The obvious answer is that Cortana can't determine if a person really speaks the language they claim they can. Cortana must trust the user. If someone wants to lie about their region and language proficiency, they will, but that's irrelevant. That's simply not a problem that needs solving. People understand the extent to which they've mastered a language. If someone from Mexico sets their device to U.S. English but their accent is too heavy for Cortana to understand, I doubt there is any user stupid enough to not grasp what the problem is.
  • Each person needs to determine that themselves and decide on their own what version of Cortana to use regardless of where they live. I don't get what is so hard to understand in what a5cent is saying.  
  • "Where you live has absolutely nothing to do with how you talk, or your cultural expectations. I don't understand why this is impossible for MS to understand, but apparently it is. None of these linguistic or cultural preferences have anything to do with the artificial lines accross continents which we call national borders. All of this is related to, and only to, the language and cultural preferences of the person using the device." Very well said, I hope someone with half a brain at Microsoft sees this, because the way they are restricting Cortana by national borders is just ridiculous.  
  • This is about what local Bing stuff they have in that area, where the servers are located for better performance and fast recognition/answering and maybe also legal stuff. For example, in Spain the word polla is a "bad word" (means penis for them), but in spanish is just chicken. I mean, Cortana can't tell some stuff in some countries. I'm a developer and I understand this seems easy but also I've learned how people think vs how stuff under the hood really are. Also I'm aware that stuff like Quiet Hours are ridiculously attached to region. You can reach Cortana people on Twitter: marcusash or melissalim89
  • Polla is penis, pollo is chicken.
  • I'm also a software engineer. I'm tri-lingual. On top of that I've lived and worked in four countries on two continents. I'm very much aware of the difficulties. Probably more so than 99% of those working in Redmond. But again, for the third time, if you speak "Spanish (Mexican)", and if Cortana were to support that language and cutlure, Cortana shouldn't worry about suddenly offending you with its use of the word "polla" just because you move from Mexico to Spain. You're culturally still a Mexican, and if you had no issues using Cortana before moving you shouldn't have any afterward either. Note that the region setting is not the same thing as your language and culture setting. I think you may be confusing those two! I fully understand that languages and cultures must be localized and I grasp the difficulties. That's just not what my post was about. It's also clear that not all services can be available in all countries. In my first post I explained why tying that availability to a static region setting, rather than to your GPS position, is also a rediculous policy.
  • The difference is between Cortanas linguistic services, bound to a setting that can be changed, and their content services, bound to location. The problem IMO is, that searching for "cinema" in a German speaking region will need either the content to be globalized. Or - and I think this is the missing part - Cortana needs to search for "cinema" and the local translation "Kino". Also, some people use English words quite extensively, like developers. Which leads to devastating results, currently.
  • so will never watch in Chile Cortana then, in fact in add functions appear Cortana for Mexico but we don't talk and even don't have nothing to do with Mexicans
  • I'm from México and live in México.. I guess Microsoft choose country by user base and then I think it matters a lot how the local team works, the services Bing already have in that country and of course the complexity of the language
  • I believe the Cortana developers would have it very difficult developing Cortana for the different Nigerian cultures. They have to know the difference in nuance in writing of the many princes and governors that want to make you reach. /S
  • *make you rich* I am not one of them (if you get the gubernatorial reference) but I know they want to make you rich, not reach.      
  • Basically, small countries can forget about Cortana for at least two years, if not more. Latvia, in my case. It is like the feature is here, yet it is not... At least it looks like Microsoft is not advertising it for unsupported languages.
  • They should work on finding a way to create computerized speech synthesis based on the actors' voices. Google Now has done a good job with that. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Small countries like Sweden will then never get Cortana seeing the time it takes to fully setup Cortana for an culture and a language group. This will probably hurt Microsoft as people here sees that Apple have enabled Siri and Google there assistant. We accept the lover performance of Siri compared to the US Siri and some also is using englis speaking versions but we will not accept nothing. As result both Apple and Google is gaining and selling more and more PCs. In the phone market Microsoft are already cruched. I say that som of the reasons you gave is valid but most are more of an slap in the face and Microsoft telling us to piss off.
  • This is so true!!   It really cripples Win 10 and puts other iOS/OsX and Android before Windows here as far as features go. apparently Sweden (and other similar countries ) arent as valuable as consumers(i get it, smaller markets arent as interesting) in  larger countries.   id say this is a major misstake from MS and one that i hope they soon remedy or they might loose market share when others up their game.   This article TRIES to explain wy we dont have some features here but its actually not correct or even close. proof? well take Xbox One for example and the lack of voice support in Sweden and other countries (not even possible with english voice support for kinect here). this kinda proves that its just a lack of interest in these markets that make things like cortana unsupported here.
  • But we have to recall that Cortana depends of Bing, and Bing in some countries is a wreck, in my country Chile is useless, Cortana in Spanish Spain or English USA is useless if ask by a supermarket near here is worst, why not use the database of here drive to tell me that at 1,2km is a supermarket near of me instead of show me the one in downtown by example, also they has offices in all the world why hell not make groups of development of Cortana in each country like Chile, Argentina, etc etc, for things like the jokes and things like sing is this valid too or are waiting that Bing gives the answer, because their search engine stinks in here
  • The most common uses of voice are setting alarms and reminders. I'm pretty sure none of that needs anything to do with Bing.
  • Cortana its doing pretty well. Siri took four years to learn Portuguese. Off: A MS guy told me at the Win10 event that Cortana would be a man in some countries.
  • Yeah, software is often unsure about it's gender... ;)
  • LoL I mean, man's voice.
  • Great article. Just correct the typo where it says to "higher someone" instead of "hire".
  • Just wondering: is it really necessary to put a commendation before a valid critism? Of course, I expect you to reply based on your culture/society or something like that.
  • I'm not sure because these things are usually non-conscious, but you made me think about it, and it could well be a cultural thing, yes.
    Though in these case I wanted to do both, I do think the article is good, it's not just to soften the typo thing. I'm left thinking on how much do they change Cortana from a country that's culturally close to another. And also that this could take ages to complete. They should first make broad languages available by regions, then start refining them.
  • Since Microsoft doesn't give a flying fart about my country or my language, I couldn't give a flying fart about Cortana
  • Another reason could be that it is impossible to download speech in a language which is not the language in the country you reside. It's an immediate download error...
    Tried everything including a hard-reset!
  •  Daniel with all respect you are not correct.  The part about local information and local chitchat it's just the sugarcoating and sugar on top basically.  The core of Cortana's functionality is universal across the world regardless where you live.  For instance on Windows phone how are quiet hours or innet circle in anyway related to where you live or what language you speak?  Does it mean that if you don't live in a specific country Cortana can't remind you to buy milk or track your flight for you?  And do you really think that Microsoft will build up the same set of features for the ~ 300 countries that are in the world?  Cortana is not handwriting recognition system where it makes sense to have all or nothing.  After some long years of using Windows phone I finally got an iPhone. right now Siri can still track my flights or set up my alarm but if I ask her to recommend a restaurant she says she can't do it in my location.  To me that's fair and simple.  On Windows phone you can't even set quiet hours if you are not in one of the countries where Cortana is supported. that's completely ridiculous. 
  • Well, I'm not a developer nor do I know how Cortana works and what are the contingencies it needs. I have spoken to Marcus on various occasions about Cortana and development. What is the alternative? Microsoft and the Cortana team are just lazy? Don't want to compete? Incompetent? That's your prerogative to believe that. However, without evidence to the contrary, we are all speaking from a disadvantage point of not knowing how all of this works. So I feel less inclined to judge the team on performance.
  • The guy is absolutely right. As a software engineer I'd say their approach with launching Cortana with all or nothing is a design flaw and now it's easier for MSFT to stick with the current flow. That's sad for most of us unfortunately.
  • "I'd say their approach with launching Cortana with all or nothing is a design flaw "
    I could agree with that. But once again, I am not sure why it was designed that way, if it was for technical reasons or indeed a flaw, as you say. Certainly it would be better if they could release a 'lite' version for some countries, although you then get into a market issue and how to explain to customers what they are using is not the "real" Cortana. It certainly can be done, but just throws up some challenges in how to market that.
  • Technically they have already done that with the alpha on windows phone, it's not the "real" Cortana but an incredibly basic version of it.
  • "although you then get into a market issue and how to explain to customers what they are using is not the 'real' Cortana." Except we already have that issue, and I don't mean Cortana Alpha and Beta versions. If you were to visit me in Switzerland (drop by anytime BTW), you'd note that Cortana is no longer able to reliably answer some of your queries like "where is the closest supermarket". Apparently, because your region setting is set to U.S. , MS trusts you enough to deal with 'Cortana lite'. If MS trusts U.S. travelers to handle 'Cortana lite', why not also trust U.S. citizens who live in other countries? While we're at it, why not also trust anyone, anywhere, who claims to speak U.S. English perfectly? I'm also a software engineer and support what others have said. Tying any of Cortana's features to a region setting (that is also used for many other purposes) IS a design flaw. Cortana's capabilities should be tied to your device's current geographic location. As I just explained, they already are. MS is just pretending otherwise. Instead of pretending 'Cortana lite' isn't a potential fact of life for everybody, MS should instead  make it transparent. All Cortana needs is the ability to inform users what capabilities she has, based on the device's current position and language settings. Not only would that make it completely clear what alpha, beta and full versions (or anything in between) can and can't do, but it would also help novices discover Cortana's full potential. "Microsoft and the Cortana team are just lazy? Don't want to compete? Incompetent?" No, definately not. I don't know why either. All I know is that Apple's and Google's products behave and feel like they were developed by multi-national corporations by people who understand these issues. MS' products... not so much. I suspect it's more about business priorities, and some executives misjuding how many people speak more than one language,  frequently cross borders, and how important these issues are to them.
  • I don't judge the team. I judge the results. And the result in this case is ridiculous. It was designed with one country in mind  that is a flaw number one. Only later based on the international response the team decided to rethink their approach. But not by ensuring the solution is more flexible and universal, but by building up on the original model of how it works. That's a flaw number two - they have an inscallable solution that either works fully or not at all.  Look,for many people Cortana works perfectly fine even though they live in unsupported location by switching their locale to US. Why? Because majority of its functionality is location independent. 
  • and Cortana is tied to a country with only 3% marketshare, Microsoft is dumb as a tack, no wonder people are looking else where for products and services.
  • It's simple, countless people have switched region to US even if they are outside US just to use Cortana and they are happy with that, Microsoft's first priority should be to make this easier by decoupling Cortana region from the OS region so that if you are outside the US you can use US Cortana without disabling all your other region specific services. If the Cortana team can't understant this, then there is no hope for them.
  • Why not better start to get voice samples is for countries that are Spanish language has the Cortana for Spain why not start an alpha with this Cortana for all the Spanish language countries for get voice samples and all phonetic features of a country x , later they will improve the system when improve Bing for the country x and implement new services, and for Cortana in English same thing to all the countries of English language, same with Cortana for French language why not start an alpha to get the audio samples to fine tune the ability of make and recognize to somebody that is from the country where will give service Cortana,I think Microsoft is getting complicated itself instead of act with an practical sense
  • Pile of crap. I totally discard the argument that Cortana is deeply nested within country culture. So Mexicans can't use Cortana in the US? Of course they can. Just give me the English speaking Cortana with damn basics like interacting with apps. What else is needed apart from understanding what I'm saying? NOTHING. Having said that I feel left out as a worse class customer who simply doesn't deserve Cortana. I understand that her sense of humour must originate from the local culture but for f sake I don't give a hoot about them little things that make her perfect. For the start just give us them bloody basics simple as.
  • I don't get why some functionalities are tied to Cortana, like Quiet Hours. I love using Quiet Hours, but it's only available if I change region and language to get Cortana. Any ideas, guys?
  • because Microsoft is backward
  • This Cortana country lock is just stupid. I am a heavy user of all MS products (XBox, Office 365, Windows 10, Windows Phone, OneDrive,...etc) and i find we should have the option to choose if we want Cortana on our devices or not in eEnglish if we wanted. I was hoping that in time this will happen, but after this article i see there is no way im gona be able to use it in my Country. That kills a lot of cool funcionalities Windows Phone and Windows 10 have to offer. Im sick using my phone in US region just so i can use reminders on Cortana and some smaller functions that i use since it kills my store etc... Well i still like Windows 10 for desktop, but as far as Windows phone goes, for me its time to move to another platform... Its been a great 5 years... but the WP flagships and APP support still lacks compared to Android and IOS. And i hate beeing restricted.
  • Great article and interesting read. I'm in the UK and use Cortana more and more, especially as now included in W10 :)
  • I wounder if any voice assistent is gonna be aviable ever in Slovenia. Like there is no one avaiable. So annyoing
  • Probably not as its a smaller country, as are many others; this is why Microsoft should allow everyone to use any region of Cortana irrespective of where they live. Sure if you have a strong accent it might have issues, but it sure would be better then not having Cortana at all.
  • I live in Slovenia and I can tell you that people that speak English speak with less accent then most of the English/US people.
  • Why can't we just install cortana in a specific language, there everyone would be happy, my country's 2nd most spoken language is english and yet its not available.
  • Anyone under age 13 can't use Cortana on Windows 10 or on Windows Phone.  Which is really strange, since you can use Siri and Google Now on iOS and Android even if you are under 13.  MS should allow parents to opt-in their kids MS accounts (with parental permission) to Cortana if the parents approve of it. Seems like a mar against what is otherwise a pretty cool feature / virtual assistant. Cortana is great, if you are old enough to use her.  Why can you use Siri and Google Now etc., even Alexa by Amazon, under age 13, but not Cortana? Clearly if this was a legal issue, Apple and so on would also have to comply as they operate in the same markets and under the same rules as Microsoft. So this is strange.
  • Nice piece Daniel. I agree Cortana is far from a easy project to get right on a global scale. Personally I think microsoft should have started of with a "neutered version" on their global windows 10 release. Microsoft has made such a big deal with Cortana they' re falling into the same feature trap back when they released tell me. The microsoft website and keynotes mentioned global support, but that simply was not reality. What I see happening is that microsoft is making exactly the same behavior again. I think Cortana was too soon for global release. They should have made it and kept it as microsoft research app project untill its ready for global prime time. The way they are promoting cortana globally with windows 10 is extremely misleading and feels like consumers are only getting yet another incomplete product thats only have as good. That's a bad marketing strategy, and I am said they did not learn from that with windows phone. I think they shouldnt have made Cortana integrated as a baked in feature for the global windows 10. 
  • This. And why the heck tie in features like Quiet Hours with a function that's extremely limited in availability?!?
  • Well said.
  • Guys if your all using Windows 10 then send feedback to them ..telling them your concerns ...as windows 10 will be an ongoing project we might in the end see some of the things thats been said here .....when Edge first came out you couldnt save passwords or there was no home button but us insiders asked for it ...and we got it so just use the feedback app in windows and with luck things will happen
  • i used to hv cortana, but i can't do purchasing in windows store... so i hv to give it up and switch back to my own country. i can live without her!
  • Why was that obvious only to me? Cortana is not a one universal app, it has regional and cultural aspects and is personalised to every country's unique characteristics. Just think what they will have to do for the Greek region!!!
     
  • We Malaysians have different cultures, different ethnics, different language, different races. It is a multi cultural country. So I think we will get it in 10 years time thanks to Microsoft
  • Very informative article.
  • Slightly offtopic. After update to W10 Mobile build 10512 cortana is missing (region, languages, interface) all are US. But when I tried to use Cortana tile I've got crappy Yandex. Hard reset totally removed Cortana and now I see only search. Any ideas how can I pick default search engine in W10 and return Cortana?   P.S. I still hope for international US English Cortana for all countries.
  • Still think Microsoft should turn on Cortana for all countries with English as a 1st language... like Singapore. Customization could add on later.  Been using Cortana on my phone since release on TP, set to USA region, in Singapore, NY, Milan, Paris, London, Bangkok, Hong Kong with more than satisfactory results.  
  • I don't know why, but... it seems Cortana is also available on my country, too. Is that because of (again, like Windows Phone 8.1) the region settings?
  • No explanation as to why we can't just choose to default to, say, US Cortana anywhere in the world, even with the understanding that we'll be foregoing Cortana's ability to dig into local info...
  • In Germany, on WP, Cortana is still alpha. Also, it doesn't work well in IT business where you have mixed in English terminology. German Cortana will not understand. Btw, tracking TV stations and having air quality information also makes sense in the rest of the world.
  • They give too much attention to these cultural thingamajingies. I want the basic version in english NOW.
  • So the conclusion is "no cortana for Sweden or other small countries"?
  • Setting up region with Cortana is not big deal, but that causes that purchase of paid apps is not possible as payment method is linked to region. It is the same with mobile...
  • Nope for Nigeria then? Farther down the list I guess. (Nope = no hope, according to me)
  • At least have a version of English available for all countries. It's still better than nothing. After all English is the international language.
  • Cortana is still a mystery…
    1. Whether one has Cortana or not, depends not only on the language used in Windows, but also on the region. 2. Does Cortana work locally on the computer, or only if one has internet access? a. Apple’s Siri… my understanding is that there is a minor signal processing locally, but that the processed information then is sent over the internet to some further processing on more powerful computers of Apple’s. Is it the same with Cortana? b. Bing and Cortana… If voice input is used, there is the added complexity of speech recognition. I do understand that speech recognition must be tailor made to each language/culture. c. Bing and natural language – this also requires some tailoring, and I understand that even if the user types in text to Cortana via the keyboard, some interpretation algorithm is needed – which varies with language. Can *this* algorithm run locally on the computer, or is it still necessary to get help on an external computer – is internet needed to interpret the typed natural language requests? d. In summary: using Cortana with typed input should be easier to make than Cortana with voice input. Natural language typed input requires some adjustments to each language, but voice input is even more challenging. Does PCs/tablets/mobile phones have the processing power to do this processing locally, or is help from an external computer needed? 3. Even if Cortana could run autonomously on the local computer when it comes to understanding typed input or voice input, most uses of Cortana probably require access to the internet. OK – Cortana can search the disk for files without access to the internet – if the language recognition is done on the local computer. 4. So… I guess I still don’t understand Cortana. Partially because most presentations of Cortana confuses voice input and the possibility of typed input, doesn’t make a distinction between speech recognition and natural language input, does not tell the reader whether the Cortana algorithm runs locally or whether some of the processing is done on external computers, and doesn’t say whether Cortana can run without internet access. As an example, if I *know* that I will only search my local disk and use typed input – does Cortana still need internet access?
  • In other words from what I have read in the article never we in Chile will get Cortana, thanks Microsoft for lie will move to android
  • While it is not a real problem to have Cortana by setting the language / region to a supported on, the most annoying side effect is that it breaks the payment for the store. Being in Switzerland for instance you cannot have region "US" and pay apps, if you don't have a US credit card or US Paypal Account. Setting the region to Switzerland will then in turn break Cortana. Why not being able to be in region US and pay with a Swiss AMEX CC? Move to a modern world, MS, learn to spell the word "GLOBALIZATION".
  • +++
  • Craziness. Guess this will shut up a few whiners lol. Makes perfect sense.
  • My L535 has location set to US and language to English UK and yet Cortana says she can't speak my language? What am I doing wrong?
  • Annoyingly for me I'm in the UK and on my Surface Pro 3 and desktop at home Cortana works fine, however on my work desktop I can't enabled it it. For some reason in Time & Lang settings the speech setting is English (US) with seemingly no way to install/change it hence despite English UK for region/lang/date/time I can't enable it.
  • Stop. Defending. Microsoft. Just face it, they're bloody slow
  • Just shows how impressive Google and Apple Engineers are, they just get on and sort out Global Google Now and Sri.
    This is just one of the reasons why Windows is failing in consumer space.
  • Why is cortina so bad?
    Why did Microsoft even bother if this is all they can offer? Have they not seen the Google voice search? It like coming out with the first version of Kindle, and marketing it against an August 2015 release, of the Samsung Note 5.
    Embarrassingly bad in comparison It Just seems completely useless.. I mean it doesn't even recognise half the things I ask it for, whereas Google is spot on, every time, no matter who is speaking, and it didn't require the use of set up phrases! I can't get Cortina to do any useful tasks, -like shut down or turn on the PC.. (kinda obvious functions I would think)
     
    If I ask it to open a browser, it does a Bing search, redirects to Google and gives me google's results for "open a web browser" or "open chrome" or whatever I asked it to do.! What's the point in that?  It can't recognise the difference between giving a command and asking a question. How is that useful? I can see voice activated functions could be really useful, Google search is awesome and very useful to find stuff and do quick web searches ... but if Microsoft are this far behind, why bother to release it now? why not wait till it's actually useful for something, THEN release it? Try asking cortina where you can find a good Tandoori.. Doesn't even know the word! LOL
    Like so many words and names of things, Cortina doesn't even recognise Tandoori as a word... LOL! I say, "Where is there good local Tandoori?"
    Google gives dozens of options and places to eat, in seconds.
    Cortina does a bing re-directed to google search for "What is a good 10 dory" I mean WTF does that even mean?
    Side point... why can't I get rid of BING? It's like a leech.. Stuck on everything, sucking the life out of it. Ask... "What's a good Cereal?"... Cortina searches for "good sin in rio"  I Don't even sound close to that.. I say Cereal with more of a british accent! Then, half the time when shes speaking, the buble moves, but there's no sound at all, or you get the second half of what she said.. I have a very clear voice, with a mid-Atlantic accent, and my gf has a California accent.. but even with a reference mic, external DAC, and pre amp, on my  $4,000 AV editing beast of a PC, and after setting up Cortina for an hour, over and over, it still falls short of google.. by a long way. I say Cortina, because Cortana is utter BS, like a UK Ford Cortina.
    It does make a good match with bing tho.. like dumb and dumber :)
  • wonderful how you explained it :) it's the same what have happened to me :-( sniff 
  • I'm personally not interested in Cortana, so it wouldn't bother me about how long it takes to arrive in my country.
  • Can I change Cortana to have the China logo ? I want a change ! I am in the US....
  • this whole Cortana availability thing is utter nonsense, just allow Cortana US by default for english speaking countries or France/Spain etc where a specific Cortana is not available for, and let people disable or not enable it as they choose, blocking people outright is plain stupid. It's stupidity like this that make the likes of Apple and Google grabbing massive marketshare, Windows Phone availablity was/is severely limited in Canada, guess what, people will buy iPhones and Androids, I know people that wanted to buy Windows Phones but could not and still cannot buy WPs, there are 4xx, 5xx, 6xx, 7xx, 8xx, 9xx, 10xx etc but still people cannot get one to buy that will work on certain carriers in Canada. I am in Canada and have always used the US region settings, Cortana works on my phones, PCs and tablet, however for my wife it work on her, phone and the tablet, but not on the PC that we both use, all the other users on the PC have Cortana, but for some reason it isn't available for her log in. Making matters worse is that now the Canadian dollar is taking a beating all my purchases are more expensive, so we just don't buy anything from the microsoft app/music stores etc anymore.
  • And if they gonna build it by culture is never gonna come to Sweden :P politicy in this country denid that we have any culture and that gonna make microsoft get hard time to build for it :P
  • But how can I activate Cortana "at my own risk"? Without changing my locale to something that's not correct? I personally don't necessarily need it to have anything to do with my culture, although it would be fun I have to say. But, as long as it isn't available for my country, I should at least be able to choose one of the available ones (US let's say) at my own choosing and risk. Or let there also be an international version. I just want to tell it to do various things, for example when I get home from work, while I change before sitting at my desk. The US version of Cortana would be just enough for that. And even if I'd say "Hey, Cortana! [I don't know what]" - it's fine if she says "sorry, I don't know anything about that". MS says it's a personal assistant... well, that's exactly what I need: to tell it to open apps/documents, add appointments etc. while I'm not in my chair. It doesn't need to know my culture, especially as long as I'm willing to try it regardless of that.