Cortana coming to the UK and China 'in weeks'

Cortana coming to the UK and China 'in weeks'

Summary: Microsoft's Bing-powered digital assistant Cortana will arrive in the UK and China soon - but it might be years before it comes to Android or iOS.

Microsoft will release Cortana in the UK and China in "weeks, not months". Image: Microsoft

Microsoft has considered Cortana on iOS and Android, but a more immediate and obvious goal is bringing its Windows Phone personal assistant to international users. First up outside the US are customers in China and the UK.

Microsoft program manager for Cortana on Windows Phone Marcus Ash confirmed Cortana's impending arrival in the UK and China will happen in "weeks, not months". Ash revealed the rollout in a tweet on Saturday, first noticed by WinBeta.

Cortana has been available in the US where it was rolled out in beta as part of the Windows Phone 8.1 developer preview update in April, giving Microsoft's mobile users an equivalent to Google Now and Apple's Siri. Windows Phone 8.1 is set to roll out to all users on 24 June.

The Bing-powered PA replaces Bing search on Windows Phone and is integrated with Skype and other Microsoft apps. It will also eventually be opened up to third-party app developers.

News of Cortana's arrival in the UK and China follow reports from a conference in the US last week where Ash was quoted as saying that Microsoft was considering the wisdom of bringing Cortana to iOS and Android in the future.

While Microsoft has been more open to making its software and services available on other platforms, such its release of Office for the iPad, it's still very early days for its digital assistant.

In a volley of tweets over Saturday, Ash clarified Microsoft's thinking on Cortana for other platforms, noting its first priorities were to make Cortana great for Windows Phone, roll it out to more countries and use Cortana as a drawcard for consumers to choose its OS.

Once Microsoft has done all that, then it will consider bringing Cortana to the desktop: recent rumours suggest Microsoft could include Cortana in next year's Threshold release of Windows.

"In a future state, the best experience will still be for Microsoft customers that own all Windows devices. Best work is on our devices," Ash said.

Only once it's executed its Windows Phone and Windows ambitions will it consider Cortana on other devices, he noted.

Ash explained in a comment on a story on WPCentral last week that the reason it is thinking about Cortana on other platforms it is an underdog in mobile. As such, Microsoft needs to "figure out what we need to so that a Microsoft customer who has a PC/tablet but a different phone can have a great Cortana experience".

"We are a challenger in the mobile space. This means we need to consider ideas and alternatives to breakthrough and be flexible and adaptable based on what we learn as Cortana comes to Windows Phone customers," Ash said.

Read more on Cortana

Topics: Mobility, Microsoft, EU, United Kingdom, Windows Phone

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • They should never do a US only release

    Glad to hear they are moving quickly. I would ensure that everyone else is not far behind China and the UK.

    I don't know if US companies realize how annoying it is for international customers to hear about this. I know I actively avoid anything Amazon because of my irritation with this: how many years it takes them to move their latest services outside the US.
  • Microsoft need to fix its "US only release" policy

    Microsoft need to roll out its products world wide, something is better than nothing. For example Bing search products' best features are only rolled out in US and in very few European countries. In other countries Bing features are not good compared to its competitor.

    Roll out product features world wide and in countries where they are not fully ready, just stick a beta tag to it.

    In mobile and tablet market, wasting time is not an option.

    This "US only release" policy is Microsoft's biggest mistake when it comes to Search and thus giving away advantage to Google in many countries...This gives Google a big oppurtunity to market its other products like Chrome and mobile stuff.
    • Different countries, different rules

      I wonder if this "US first" policy is because of all the different rules and policies that different countries have? Maybe the complexity of it is compounded by the fact that they are unable or unwilling to give certain governments access to customer data, etc? All of these large tech companies have to work with government agencies on some level, but Google has certainly proven time and again that they are more willing to compromise their integrity to get more adoption of their software and services. I understand your frustration in having to wait, but perhaps it is for the best?
      Mister Indie
  • US only release and language

    As others have commented this is very frustrating. I live in France, heaven knows when we will get WP8.1 and Cortana.

    I'd also mention another gripe, language and interface. Microsoft, Google et al seem to assume if you live in France you want a French UI. It ain't necessarily so, plenty of Americans and Brits here can't speak French that well and a French UI makes everything hard work.
  • Windows Phone 8.1 not fully released

    As far as I know, WIndows Phone 8.1 has not been fully released yet and is still in developer previews.

    This is a special case of a roll-out. Something like Cortona has to be sepecialized for language, culture, dialects, and more. Reading about the way their AI and Neural Net system works with Cortona, even gathering more English data helps them with other languages.

    This is not an example of them holding off for other conuntries just to have a roll-out. There are very large and legitimate technical issues here.

    Fortunately, Windows Phone lets you pick both your locale and language seperately, but I can immagine the uproar if they released Cortana to the French region in an English-only mode. No, waiting until they have it a bit more stable for that language and culture is a good thing.