You what, guv? Cortana gets a regional makeover


Microsoft's digital personal assistant, Cortana, is to get different national and regional accents and understand cultural references when it launches with Windows 10 next week.

The new Cortana, – Microsoft's equivalent of Apple's Siri – will debut on July 29 in seven countries: the U.S., UK, China, France, Italy, Germany and Spain.

Cortana will be available across PCs, tablets and smartphones running Windows 10. The move move is a bid to differentiate its personal assistant offering from its rivals Apple and Google.

Microsoft said after extensive research with consumer groups, it has figured out the cultural sensitivities of each launch country.

"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," Microsoft wrote in a blog post.

The information that Cortana will be able to provide will also be tailored to each market. For example in China, Microsoft said that the personal assistant will track data on air quality as this is important to Chinese consumers. Cortana will also celebrate the Cannes Film Festival for French consumers and will celebrate cricket star Sachin Tendulkar in India. In Japan, Cortana understands the need for politeness and will give a formal pronunciation of a person's name.

Microsoft also said that Cortana's local personality will allow it to give culturally relevant answers to common requests like "tell me a joke".

"For example, Cortana understands how highly the UK values self-deprecating humor. Dryness and irony are traits that filter subtly into her personality, and she uses playful sarcasm in her responses if she senses you're fooling around," Microsoft said of Cortana's ability to deliver the trademark British humor.