A huge update to Windows Phone 8.1 finally brings Microsoft’s virtual assistant, Cortana, to China and the U.K.
Cortana has been heavily modified for the Chinese release. First and foremost, Cortana can now speak Mandarin. Users have the option to select her original “halo” icon, or the new redesign, which is basically an oval shape with eyes. Other changes were specifically made to match the local flavor, and to meet the needs of customers in developing nations.
Users in the U.K. will get Cortana with a British accent. Changes have been made to the spelling of certain words, as well.
The update includes other upgrades for Cortana, allowing her to integrate seamlessly with in-car Bluetooth systems.
Microsoft aims to bring Cortana to other regions as well. Thanks to the update, consumers in Australia, India, and Canada can now meet Cortana.
The update also introduces a heavily-demanded feature – screen folders for the Start screen, but Cortana is the feature that people are most excited about.
“It’s a response to an often-requested feature,” said Windows Phone director Greg Sullivan. “What we found is people wanted a lot of apps pinned to Start and some in the same category grouped together. It wasn’t any kind of big left turn in terms of design or user experience.”
Bluetooth support has been improved, so apps like Fitbit can send you updates even if when not in full sync.
“This will provide more functionality, and that’s quite frankly a gap that we have today in terms of support for wearable devices,” says Sullivan. “We’ve made it easier for those devices to send notifications back and forth.”
Developers will be the first to receive the update, while carriers and manufacturers will be bringing it to handsets in the next few weeks.