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This is how Cortana got started and why more countries will get Microsoft's assistant soon

Cortana is certainly the most headline worthy new feature of Windows Phone 8.1, even though the OS update has much more than a personal assistant going for it. With comparisons to Siri and Google Now, the Halo-inspired voice helper garners some needed headlines for Microsoft as they continue their entrenched battle in mobile.

Recently, Marcus Ash, who is the group program manager for Cortana on Windows Phone, was seen on camera explaining the priorities for Cortana, including entertaining the idea of putting it on other operating systems like Android or iOS. That controversial position was later clarified in a follow-up comment on our site, alleviating some concerns of Windows Phone adherents.

Today, in a second video, Ash explains the origins of Cortana's development, and how the team is "shocked by the international reaction."

In the video, recorded last week during a Q&A session at Microsoft's main campus, Ash reveals quite a few interesting bits about Cortana's beginnings:

"There's this general curiosity with – it's kind of hard to describe, but – Siri and AI systems and clever phones that can do these interesting functions that feel like the next user interface revolution. You know if you look at the big inflections where different things happen to change – like the industry leaders tend to have these big shakeups – it's usually when you have some kind of new user interface paradigm that's introduced. Mouse, keyboard, touch – all the sudden you see people's patterns change."

"So we got a lot of feedback around, well, maybe this whole virtual assistant, personal assistant is the next thing. Like, this thing I could talk to that would do things on my behalf. That represents a new interface. It feels kind of interesting. So we did all that work and we surveyed the competitive landscape. We landed on this concept of Cortana..."

Regarding the notion of Cortana being labeled as a beta, Ash confirms that it is due to the massive amounts of data needed to hone Cortana's skills, to make the AI as competitive if not more than Apple's Siri and Google Now:

"We launched it as a beta primarily because of the data collection requirements. For these systems to get really good, you just have to collect a lot of data. There's just no short cutting it. We have to collect thousands of hours of recording from a variety of different people in different countries with different accents to train the speech language system. You got to see what people are searching for and have this whole intent classification system and look at when you're going to the web versus when we should've understood what you wanted. And there's a bunch of machine-learning algorithms that just need tons and tons of data."

Subsequently that beta tag should be expected to stay "through the first wave of consumer devices."

Later on in the video, Ash discusses the complicated and thorny issue of rolling Cortana out to non-US markets. According to Ash, even though Cortana is currently only for those in the US, half of its users are now global. That figure "shocked" the Cortana team because it means users had to change their region to enable the voice assistant, which demonstrates how eager people are to adopt Cortana today. Consequently, the Cortana team is now re-thinking their rollout plans:

"Probably the number one source of feedback Joe and I, both Joe Belfiore and I both get on Twitter, is when's it coming to India, when's it coming to Spain, Italy, the UK, Canada, Australia. Go Canada. My mom's from Canada. She's not happy with me because we keep putting out features and then we act like Canada's just so hard. She's just like, conceptually she's just like, I don't understand. Why is Canada so hard. We speak English. I'm like, I know mom. It's complicated."

"So we get a lot of feedback on that and I think the early reception and just this kind of groundswell of, I want to use it even though it's not my native language, actually caught us by surprise and is exciting and has really pushed us to think about how quickly we should be releasing these markets."

As a result of outpouring of enthusiasm from users, Microsoft is considering a wider deployment of Cortana to other regions even before it is correctly localized, perhaps dropping the beta tag for those users and calling it "Alpha or something":

"So I think you'll see a lot of movement on that front in the next six months. I think this – the number one priority for the team is get this in the hands of as many customers as possible. We're certainly trying to expand the feature set but I think we're more interested in getting it out to consumers, seeing how they react to the current features and then getting out to more consumers. The best way for us to do that is to expand aggressively internationally."

The origins of Cortana, including the original Halo inspiration, is certainly an interesting bit of trivia. Perhaps even more attention-grabbing is the mass adoption of Cortana by non-US users. While it's not hard to enable Cortana on phones outside of the US, it's not something most casual users would engage in, or at least that's what the Cortana team thought. More specifically, it's perhaps odd that non-English speaking users will want to use, with frequency, an English-based voice assistant. With Cortana arriving in China and the UK in the "coming weeks," at least some of that frustration will be eased, though Microsoft clearly has a lot of work left ahead.

Source: Mark Guim (Twitter)

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This is how Cortana got started and why more countries will get Microsoft's assistant soon

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I'm waiting...
Her mom is right on that, Canada is an English speaking country (with French). Not India entirely, but we do understand and speak in most places (just like many other countries). I know localization is what MS is taking so long for, they don't want to release a half baked cake but Cortana in DP still works just fine for that matters.

I don't know, my experience, using Cortana in Canada, is that it doesn't work for me unless I speak in an American southern drawl...

I'm not sure about developer preview. But she must work after the original release! (I'm sure she'll)
Although she does understand my horrible Indian English accent just perfectly so i guess she as well understands Canadian English.

And here I was thinking all the time I spoke English to Cortana with my Southeast Asian accent. But not so according to #funkyGeneral. Without our knowing it, we have all been speaking to her all the time with our "American southern drawl" since she understands us perfectly LOL!

Actually, when I got Cortana for the first time in my phone I tried speaking to it in American accent, she understood well. Next, I tried in native indian style, she understood well, again. And then I knew the way to go... 

Cortana does fine understanding my friends southern Ukrainian-Asian Tex\Mex speech. Even though I just look at him and go WTF did you just say?

Weird. Works fine for me and i have some weird English /american hybrid accent...and I live in Australia. Go figure. Ha

That's interesting. I'm Swedish and Cortana has no trouble recognizing my accent which would be a mix of American and Brittish English with a Swedish twist.

And as far as localizations go, Cortana already does a great job finding nearby restaurants, libraries, public transportation and so on. Only annoyance is that I need to have everything on the phone in english for that (with miles and farenheit etc).

I think perhaps you are taking for grantid the blessings that come along with living in a country that generates so much consumer technology. No language is really better then another. Microsoft's vision as a company is to bring ADVANCED technology/software to as many people on the face of this planet.... not to Americans, or English speakers. It just so happens that there are many different languages in the world....

 

It also just so happens that Microsoft actually has different headcourters in different countries. How much of a waste would it be to have those headcourters and still produce products that are only tailered to a wester culture???

That's pretty much the case.

While Microsoft has offices everywhere in the world, the core OS team is in Washington state USA. That's where all development occurs and it makes sense that projects that are secret and closely held to the team would be kept on campus. Had Cortana been co-developed and tested in Russia, China, India and other countries, their little secret would have been revealed a long, long time ago.

Strange, English isn't even my native language and Cortana understands me just fine.

Anyway, I'm shocked that MS is shocked that Cortana has so many users overseas. I'm sure MS has heard of the internet. These days people all over the world communicate and share information with each other, just like on WPC. How can MS, an international software company, think that nobody outside the U.S. will know what is being released in the U.S.? It's crazy. IMHO a huge disapointment that MS still needs to "think about" something like this. They should have had standard procedures and policies in place for over ten years already. Rediculous.

Oh yeah, and despite living in a german speaking country in central Europe, I work with 15 U.S. citizens who would also appreciate Cortana. It seems MS has no idea how the world works these days, or for some reason they just can't comprehend that there might also be a lot of fluent english speakers outside their borders.

I appreciate the work this guy does, but in this regard he needs a boot forcfully applied to his rear.

I think they mean it is setup to work mostly in the USA. They did not expect other countries to adopt this so early. Yet many from other countries have loaded it and are using it. I live in the states and don't think I would use a program set for use in another county, but maybe I would never had this happen yet.

The only real hassles with the US settings is temperature, couple spelling errors, and the date configuration (mm-dd-yyyy - the mind boggles). When the UK version comes on line I'll change to that (as I'm in Aus) but it would be nice if for the countries that aren't beta yet to get an alpha with a big warning message so we could keep the right formatting that would be nice.

Dont forget the contact phone numbers  xxx-xxx-xxxx

I sometimes wonder if region is a great choice for defining a persons accent?

Many people move geographically and never lose their accent for the rest of their life or stop using the coloquialisms they grew up with.

Well maybe that's because most people just buy's a phone and isn't really interested in new technologies. It's nice to have them, but won't be looking for the latest news. If I look at my own situation I haven't spoken to anyone about Cortana, because all my friends simply don't care, my colleagues don't care and my family... You get the point. I don't know anyone (here in The Netherlands) who has Siri, Google Now or Cortana. So if the date shows Microsoft that Cortana is used by a lot of people outside the US, then that's something special and something to be proud about. Now it's time to bring Cortana to Europe and the rest of the world.

It would be interesting to see a breakdown of those international countries.
I'm in the UK and suspect a good percentage of Cortana users are here.
For the most part, Cortana understands my English accent, but some words appear to be problematic, for instance "work". I have to resort to putting on an American accent by emphasizing and extending the letter 'r'!!!

Incorrect.

Canada has two official languages, English and French.  The part of "It's hard" that he placates his mother with is that in order to meet Canadian regulatory compliance, the service must fully support both official languages.

I think you mean English and Quebecois - as and hot blooded French person would tell you "speak English to me I can't understand what your saying"

i think i understand their issue in bringing things to Canada, not trying to pick on the french speaking Canadians, but I suspect it has more to do with the law where all services/labels rolled out in Canada has to have both English and French capabilities, so I'm guessing it's the French part of the localization that is taking more time from them

Well, for one they have to add the feature that when the phone has been configured to use Canadian French, it has to refuse to acknowledge that it understands English.

Hong Kong has English as an official language, I WISH they had laws governing releasing things IN ENGLISH as well as Chinese. I noticed even Microsoft nowadays just assumes "Chinese" on any website of theirs as long as I'm in this region.

It's not just MS, it's pretty much every tech company, and it ticks me off.

For example I hate it when websites, apps and games reads my region setting and automatically switches to the local language, thinking they are doing me a service, but they are not.  I'm trilingual (English, Cantonese/Chinese, Japanese), but I prefer my UI settings in English in general.  However if I'm playing a game made in Japan, I don't want it to switch automatically to English because I don't want to read the translation (which is sometimes censored, too localized or whatever other reasons).  By the same token I don't want an English game "set" to Japanese either.  If I'm using a local map search in Hong Kong, then I also don't want to have to use English because when someone local tells me the street name they aren't going to tell me what it is in English (they probably don't even know it in English). etc  Region language setting to me is the most inconvience setting invented, especially as people become more educated and are easily bilingual or speak even more languages than that.

South Africa is also an English-speaking country. I have no idea why we're always left off the bandwagon.

Even Siri, which is available here, says, "Sorry, I'm unable to find places in South Africa." Seriously!? There's a ton of Foursquare and other location service data.

When (and if) Cortana does make it here, I hope she's more useful than Siri.

8.1 is out over here. The 630 launched a few weeks ago and Micromax announced two devices to be launched next month.

I still think it should stay in the windows eco than to bring it to non windows. People can get a taste of it on windows 8 and then if they want the whole experience get more windows devices. That being said it would be fantastic if they where able to bring it world wide sooner than later.

It should also be two sentences. "Let's bring it to the Dutch people, too. We can speak English, fluenty." or "...speak fluent English".  The funny thing is that most people have no idea the level of competancy required to speak a language "fluently". My ex used to tell people that she could speak Spanish fluently, after 3 years study in college and 6 months of foreign study.  Sorry, that's not enough time to collect the necessary breadth of vocabulary, let alone internalize all the nuances of different languages. 

NOW...imagine having to PROGRAM all of those complexities! Maybe people can see it's not just because Microsoft "doesn't care".  This is hard stuff for humans to learn and even harder to teach to machines.

Amen Dalydose. People are emotional and tend to internalize their lack of understanding. Then what ultimately comes out are ignorant statements full of self pity. What you said is true. Language is difficult for us as humans. It's even more difficult to program (teach) a machine to understand. When that's understood, the situation Microsoft is in makes a lot more sense.

Thats great news.

 

Please Microsoft, as soon as you have thought through this give us an approximation of the roll-out plans for Cortana. I would appreciate ust know which Quarter I could expect Cortana in my country.

+920
+1320
+1520 (All my current Windows phones)

+McLaren (Soon to be)

P.S. We Filipinos can speak American English like it's our 'native (tongue) twang' - put some British accent, with ease too! :P

I wasn't able to change my HTC 8X settings to US so I really do hope at least UK gets Cortana very soon (I'm in Australia)
I love how half of people using Cortana aren't from the US though!

I just don't understand HOW can they be "shocked". Haven't they looked at the sales of WP worldwide? Are they so US-centered that they haven't noticed the US is one of those places where WP is less popular? What the heck were they expecting when they decided to release Cortana only in the only market that doesn't care that much about their OS?

 

Seriously, these people at Microsoft need to get a shock treatment to see if they wake up and start realizing that the US shouldn't at all be one of their priority markets. Even if it's their home country. Why try to test something in a place that doesn't care to test your products?

They're shocked because Cortana doesn't work well outside the US e.g. imperial vs metric systems, localized information, etc. It's odd that if you're not an English speaker e.g. Chinese that you would want an English-based voice assistant (as in you need to speak in American English for it to work well). Yet they're finding users in China and India using Cortana fairly regularly, even though it's far from idealized in that region. That's why if they push it out to some places before it's ready, they may call it Alpha instead of beta.

It's also not obvious that changing regions - and how to do that - is something that will enable Cortana. Sure, if you're on our site you may have seen our article on it, but it's not something that regular users will know.

In find Ash's surprise fully warranted in this case.

I live in Singapore and my spoken English is as far from American English as you can get, but Cortana got it correct around 80% of the time. Cortana is that good.

...and part of that is the Cortana team making adjustments, the machine learning, etc. It's not clear though that if you're testing Cortana in Redmond, Washington that users in other countries would have good success with it. That's only something you learn after many users end of trying it out.

"It's odd that if you're not an English speaker e.g. Chinese that you would want an English-based voice assistant (as in you need to speak in American English for it to work well)."

No Dan. No offense, but this is apparently something Americans have huge difficulties getting into their heads. In contrast to the U.S. , where it is rare to find anyone who speaks anything else but their native language, the populations in most other developed nations speak at least two languages. When it comes to forign languages, English is a VERY popular choice. I live in a german speaking region, and I know far more people who can speak english fluently than I know people who can't. It's not odd at all!

I also have quite a few collegues at work who grew up in the U.S. , and I'm pretty sure Cortana could understand them perfectly fine. Heck, where I work English is the only lauguage we use. All our documentation is in English.. all meetings are held in English... we speak english all day at work and then go home to our wife and kids where we speak german. All of this, despite English not being one of our countries four official languages (german, french, italian, and romantsh)

Language is not a reason to restrict anything. When will MS finally understand?

 

Okay, that I agree with. Sorry if I misunderstood. It's just that most of the comments, your mention of chinese speakers, and particularly Ash's monologue suggest that the hold up is ALL about language. I'm still surprised at MS' astonishment. IMHO the existence of WPC , and the exchange of indormation it facilitates, guarantees a lot of people will change their setting to get cortana.
Any chance you could write an article about all the data cortana collects and also mention how that influences international availability?

I don't buy that they're shocked at all.

International people have been setting their region to US for years now (to enable simple features like the old 8.0 Bing search). I don't know anyone in S.Africa that hasn't. I struggle to believe that they had no metrics on this.

That being said, it totally makes sense that localization takes time, and is pretty expected.

US-people don't know what is to live in a world where half the content you read in the internet is in your language and the other half in english, and it doesn't make a difference.
Microsoft is the only company I know to tie the language and the country. I use my Nexus 7 in English because Google Now have more features than in portuguese, but I'm still in Brazil. As I do with my Nintendo consoles, even though they have portuguese, most the content is in english.
I just wish I could use the Xbox One in english to be able to use the freaking "xbox on" command, without messing all my services by changing the country.

I agree.  I'm surprised that Microsoft are surprised by this....?  Don't they bother to look at thier sales figures??? WP is taking off big time in the rest of the world.  If anything they should have released it first in Europe, the UK, India, Russia and China.

 

Check out my response to the above comment. They're surprised because people need to change the regions on their phone to enable it, and that's not a very obvious thing to do (which is why we wrote an article about it). So users have to be aware that such a trick would enable Cortana and how to do it.

As far as releasing it first in other countries, Microsoft is a US based company. Their internal testing of Cortana was performed by the Windows Phone team in Washington state. That's how they practiced, that's how they improved it for its beta release. How are they to master Cortana in Russia or India or China (!) when they wanted to keep the whole project a secret? How do you propose they collect "massive amounts of information" from users in Russia and China to properly localize it while keeping it under wraps?

You're misunderstanding their observation. It's not that they're surprised that international users want Cortana (they obviously know their own sales), but that they know how to enable it through changing regions and that they would want to use a English-based voice assistant in countries like China, Russia, etc.

Exactly. In the US, they can put cortana in hundreds of phones and still keep it a secret.

As a dev, why would I test something in chinese when I don't even get it when all those answers start to come out of Cortana?

Sorry but surely the Windows Phone team isn't all US people. Surely they have non-English speakers there who could do internal testing for other languages. I don't really buy that from a global company in a globalised world. In terms of being shocked by half of Cortana users being from outside the US this shouldn't be a surprise given the vast majority of sales have taken place in non-US markets and the use by non-English speakers who know English anyway. There's the UK, Ireland, Australia, NZ, South Africa and countries like the Netherlands, Sweden, and Finland where almost 85% of people can have a conversation in English (lack of dubbing on tv and in cinema helps) so I'm not surprised at all.

.
I wonder how all this data collected from outside the US will affect Cortana USA? Or maybe it doesn't matter? All the data goes into one 'pot' and doesn't need any regional sorting?

Right, exactly what Daniel said.  We know we have a lot of international customers.  What surprised us is that half of our Cortana users (not the total developer preview audience as some people have accused me of making up, tough crowd, remember this video was from an internal #MeetMSFT event about Cortana, not about general Windows Phone questions...)

Also adding a comment from a previous question in a different thread from the weekend.

---

To clarify my comment, the surprise is that so many of our developer preview customers are setting their region to the US to use Cortana.  We knew we would have lots of customers outside of the US for the developer preview but given the limitations with voice and content we weren't expecting so many people outside of the US to try Cortana.

We started with the US because all of our natural language models in other countries use the US as a baseline.  So if you don't have a decent US model, you end up with garbage in, garbage out if you try to push to other countries. 

Given the response to the developer preview, we are looking at all options to speed up our country roadmap.  And when you see/hear about what we have done for Cortana China with our dedicated engineering team there, we hope you and our other customers will realize that we are making Cortana unique for our customers in other major countries.

And like I said, talk is nice, but we have to prove it through our actions. 

Keep the feedback coming. 

This isn't about sales. Their surprise us that people outside of the test market, would go through the process of changing their region and then dealing with US centric features.
A company is always going to release something like this in the language and region of the developers. That only makes logical sense. You ready it in the language you are most comfortable with and also where your internal testers are.

Well said. It's also a big surprise that the US market is so obsessively supported, where WP wouldn't be able to approach even iOS market share at all in near future. I know that US has a big number of users in absolute numbers, but it is obvious that when popularity is so weak it would be hard to do anything with it. There are many countries in Europe and Asia where iOS is almost unknown (having less than 10% of market) - these countries could be a serious opportunities for MS to fight with Android devices, which are popular worldwide. But in these countries during over 4 year of WP7/8 development still there's no even voice recognition like speech-to-text function. Whadda pity.

Everyone I show cortana to already loves it more than Siri. I've convinced two people to trade their 5S for Lumia 1520's --Many things swayed them but cortana was the icing on the cake. All the managers in my office use Lumias from my constant prodding as well haha ----  :) slowly but surely we're picking up steam! Also - Dont eat at Cheesecake. Go across the street to the British Beer Company or Kelly's Roast Beef. Just sayin' 

When I was in London for few days several months ago I've seen only one Lumia user (the red 920) and zillions of IPhone users. Trying to buy any accessory for Lumia is almost impossible. Everything only for apple and Samsung devices. Nothing else. What is the general WP market share in UK?

Bring it to The Netherlands!

I tried, how hard did holland kick spain's ass last friday but no answer...

I (am from India) have been using windows phone from the last one year or more and have been desperately waiting for the new updates, new phones (Nokia Lumia 930 or some good hardware). To some extent also ready to compromise on the missing apps or plethora of apps, but, I don't think so they are much interested about Indian market, in fact till last year even Apple did the same thing in India, but now they very much present (officially) in this market. I hope and wish that one day India also get the similar priority like any other countries. However, i feel at present, it is becoming chicken and egg story - who came first.

Jets a quick tip for ms. The quickest way to collect data, usage information and feedback on features is to give it to as many people as you can. This long winded guff boils down to one message - coming soon. What a waste of time, I am no better off having read this than I was before.

I think you're glossing over some significant parts of Ash's response. It's not just about collecting data. It's about wanting to deliver a good user experience, including having localized information so that when you ask Cortana something, she can actually provide a reasonable answer.

The reason Microsoft didn't just mass release it to the world is because it only works well in the US for all things. If you're in China, some of it can work, but there are a lot of things off about it too. Evidently, that hasn't stopped people, but Microsoft was concerned that people would use it an think 'well, this sucks' because it was not yet localized. That could also backfire on them, as many people would be unhappy and call it half baked.

Even for US users it's a beta. For rest of the world, it would earn the label alpha. Most companies aren't in the habit of releasing alpha products to consumers.

Have you not seen the Early Access fad? Granted that's only gaming, but still. Getting money for an incomplete, untested product is the wave of the corporate future.

I don't disagree, but Microsoft and the Preview for Developers program is still a very new thing for them - culturally and technologically - so it makes sense that in the beginning they'd hedge a bit on releasing features. Look at how many updates there were to Update 3. None. Now, with the 8.1 Preview we've had 3.

I think as they collect data and feedback, they will expand...well, everything. They're clearly noticing trends, but that's not necessarily something that should be assumed.

The people that complain that it's not everywhere instantly would be the same people complaining that it's "crap" and "useless" if Microsoft just released worldwide with incomplete localization and put language capabilities. They are ALREADY complaining about things like Celsius when it is pre release and very clearly only working with a US region feature set.

Many thanks to both you and dalydose for speaking on my behalf, however, I am more than capable! I am one of those people who think they should have released to a wider audience. I am a developer previewer, have a few alpha release titles, and have been part of many beta test groups, don't assume I spend all my time bitching about glitches. Beta testers are one of developers most valuable resources. I also agree with previous posters that it makes sense to release your test systems in markets where you have a strong and loyal following, not just where you are trying to put one over Apple or android.....

I'm from India.. Whenever I ask Cortana nearby restaurants.hospitals ets.. It gives correct information's but the units are in miles not n kms

The only pro of American things and devices is popularity of AT gearboxes. I remember my Toyota Tercel imported from the US few years ago and the counter and speedometer scaled in miles. It was funny to simultaneously recalculate both of them during trips. Are they planning to become normal with such units? ;) a little off topic ;)

Do you honestly expect fans to be all calm when you mention the idea of bringing Cortana to other platforms? Just like what many have already stated. You worry about finishing your own platform first before worrying about a slightly better Cortana experience that Ios or android users may not even be bothered to download.

I think you need to go re-read that article again, because you are misconstruing what was said. Their top priority is making Cortana a top notch product on Windows Phone.

I think there is a point to be made here. Microsoft has left Windows Phone behind iOS and Android before, so even uttering iOS/Android for Cortana was probably a PR mistake.

True, but Ash isn't PR ;) I know that's obvious but Microsoft letting a core member of their Cortana team speak freely is a big step in the right direction of being transparent. If we crucify those same people every time they speak and/or things get misrepresented, guess what? Microsoft won't be letting these people speak freely much longer and we lose any potential insight.

More people need to realize this point you just made. For every Mattrick that shoots off his mouth inappropriately, we need an Ash that can let users share his sense of passion and excitement for a project without running his remarks through the "safe PR" filter. It's a great way to engage customers when it works, and here in this case it appears to be working as the buzz surrounding Cortana is quite impressive, for Microsoft anyway.

I understand but I'm talking about him being shocked to how we reacted. If WP is a mega successful platform then this move would make a lot of sense. At first I was indeed seeing it as a benefit for Cortana to grow but I also see a much bigger loss in the WP sales which if you ask me is probably the main reason why they made this personal assistant in the first place. I'm no tech expert but isn't bringing cortana to Xbox and PC enough? Aren't there enough users on PC?

"Aren't there enough users on PC?"

There are a lot. And the majority don't have a Windows Phone but iOS and Android. So the question is, how good will Cortana be without knowing anything about a user's mobile preferences? As Ash points out, mobile phones reveal a lot more information about a user than a PC, so Cortana won't be as good without knowing what is being done on the phone.

So the questions is, how do you rectify that? Do nothing? Make a full fledged Cortana client for those phones? Something in between? That was the context, as he is thinking like a developer.

Half of us using Cortana ARE in the US, which may be a lower percentage than expected but still makes us the largest group.

For me Cortana as a virtual Assistant is just secondary.

I use it primarily for getting news and for quiet hours (I don't live in the US and hate that the fact weather is in Farenheit- and Cortana is not intelligent enough to remember me asking for Celsius every time).

 

Honestly, if quiet hours would work without Cortana, I would change the region back to my home country.
 

To be honest it is in pre release and the region being used for testing is US which uses Fahrenheit. I'm not sure why this surprises people. This is a TEST version that you are using, out of region.

It surprises is since we thought it would not be that hard to learn preferences like providing the weather in Celsius.

@Honestly, if quiet hours would work without Cortana, I would change the region back to my home country.@

+1

hence the part where he said they had alot left to do on localization, if UK goes live I suspect you could change it to that region and get the better localization (since I have no idea where you are from, but then again I'm not sure what UK uses either lol)

Not even the previous voice assistant available in my country, Indonesia. I guess I'll have to wait for a decade to have Cortana in my language.

Ah yes, permanent beta....

What do you mean you were surprised by the success... The community begged you to theme it as Cortana

im pretty positive that I read a sentence noting beta will last through the first wave of new devices... so no they won't cheat with the beta word like google does

This is the third time I've heard of some promising features coming up in 'the next six months'... Can't wait for 'the next six months'.. :P

What i don't understand is that on the app store is something called indigo which is a 3rd party app like cortana. They pretty much have ot perfectly. If they can do it then why the hell is a multi billion pound company taking so damn long. I am using indigo in the uk and personally i like what it does. Tell it what to write for your Facebook status and she will add it, puts appointments in the calander, and when you open up the app the first thing indigo does is tell you if you have appointments for today or not plus what the weather is going to be like and also todays news. Personally cortana can take as long as it wants. Indigo Is perfect and understands my accent 100%

δύσκολο , είμαστε ένα 4% μιας εξαιρετικά μικρής αγοράς

Greece is an irrelevant market so that's not possible

Δεν είναι και τόσο δύσκολο, δηλαδή η MLS πως το έκανε να καταλαβαίνει ελληνικά.

Ακριβως αυτο σκεφτομαι κι εγω... Τα ελληνικα κινητά πως τα κατάφεραν??? Όσο για τη MS Hellas δεν φαινεται να κανει πολλα... Ούτε το WordFlow δεν έχει φερει σε εμάς. Και με βάση έρευνες που έχω διαβασει η Ελλάδα είναι στις χώρες που τα WP νίκησαν το iOS και είναι δεύτερα.

Sounded right. :) We are talking about a small company in Greece named MLS which creates phones with voice assistant who understands and speaks Greek and we are just wondering why MSFT can't do that. And complaining about MSFT Hellas...

Let's just hope this Country/Region work-around with Windows Phone does not change. Hell will break loose as soon as Microsoft disallows it - should they get a change of heart. #FickleMS

WHY IS CANADA SO HARD?!? EXACTLY!
We lost support for Local Scout in Windows Phone 8, which was a feature I absolutely LOVED and can no longer show off. The fact that I couldn't get the enhanced Bing app for Windows Phone 8 (show times, local events, latest news, etc.) unless I changed my regional settings is just garbage. Even the fact that I had to buy a Lumia 1520 full price online because we get NO Windows Phones in Canada is ridiculous.
The USA and Canada are both in North America and share a hell of a lot with each other. I just don't understand why Canada is always put on the back burner. Not just for Windows Phone or Microsoft products, but in general!

Oh maybe because we have to official languages and in order to do business here, you have to meet regulatory compliance of offering in BOTH official languages.

Complain to the government, not the companies who have to meet their rules.

Yeah why doesn't WP do away with all that loading and resuming? Android and iOS don't have that. Is it a software bug or something?

It probably is why WP is running that smooth on budget devices. At least that's what I anticipate! And therefore I can love with it since I really do like having a smooth OS

The fact is a vast majority of non English speaking consumers (that is those to whom English is not a native tongue, to be more precise) are quite used to English based products... Most of us have no other alternative. And still a vast majority of the previously mentioned vast majority is quite comfortable with English language. This especially applies to European and Asian countries... So yes, we would like to be able to access Cortana without region "hacks", even though she doesn't still speak German, Croatian, French, etc... We can use her for quiet hours, alarms, reminders... Not everyone uses their smartphones to find nearest Italian restaurants all the time... :)

China doesn't speak English often...How come China get it first..?I mean why doesn't other english speaking countries first...like India,Australia and so on...Is there any reason behind releasing Cortana first to China and UK...anyone know the answers...especially Daniel do you?

Market share, growth, and market size.

Growth is near stagnant in AU / CA / UK, were as Microsoft are seeing full digit marketshare growth YoY where they are launching first.

China and India are two of the largest markets on the planet.  Getting there first and updated regularly will be key to long term success.

"it's perhaps odd that non-English speaking users will want to use, with frequency, an English-based voice assistant."

There is absolutely nothing odd about it. it's the 21st century. A lot of people can speak English. American Cortana's speech recognition was amazing from my own experience, even though I'm not from US, however having to use USA regional settings was pretty annoying.
I think it would be best if they would enable Cortana for all regions, even if she can only speak English for now. They can keep adding languages over time. In my opinion the lack of language support should not prevent users from using Cortana with their own region settings.

I'm sure some will disagree with me but I'd gladly speak with American Cortana if only she didn't force me to switch the store currency into $.

Thanks to changing my region I now collect Bing Reward points that I can't use. The website won't let me sign up because my Microsoft Account is Canadian.

Am a Singaporean, but I don't really have the Singaporean accent, so Cortana works for me :) but good luck with the other Singaporeans whom have Singaporeans accent hahahah

I think Cortana is going well, slowly but with confidence as a proyect. I wonder, maybe Microsoft could open Cortana to other systems like Android or IOS in order to obtain that amount of data they need. The Cortana available for other systems that aren't Windows or Windows Phone could be do what it does now, a productive assistant. Maybe the extra-flavor and features can work if you own Microsoft OS & devices (PC, Surface, Xbox, WPhone) so you can give orders to Cortana to manage and assist you between your devices, with commands that will allow and improve the Microsoft user experience to do these things:

  • open a file from your phone in your PC
  • open a file in your PC and save a copy in your phone (and this file is also saved in OneDrive)
  • or wake up your xbox - wake up your pc and play some music while your gaming, and you can answer message with voice commands at the same time if you need to
  • send a file/message/media content automatically when you leave home or reach a destination
  • transfer files to a Microsoft user friend creating a temporary ad hoc connection, or using a shared wi fi network to make it really fast (in devices like surface)
  • and also do what apple is now doing, that is managing your information , messages (SMS, whatsapp, skype, etc.) with friendly notifications and response system in windows desktop synched with wp 8.1. 

That would be great and give microsoft the opportunity to differentiate windows and its user experience. That would create this kind of situation: "So, you have Cortana, right? Yeah, it's a great assistant. But now look and think what you can do if you use it in microsoft devices!". Like being productive without stop having fun using very advanced technology.

These are some of my thoughts, Greetings from Perú! 

The problem is not Cortana, it is Bing. Remember, "Cortana harnesses the power of Bing". As it is, Bing has ZERO local search capability here in Belgium (Europe). It is not even able to search its own databse of places. For example, Colruyt supermarkets do appear on bing maps, but type this name in the search bar and it will send you thousand kilometers away. This is the power of Bing: a search engine that cannot even search data it has on its own maps! And this tranfers to Cortana: no local search at all...

Microsoft should get their act straight and think seriously how to truly become global. Otherwise, we would be much better off if Cortana would be powered by Google outside of the US. Incredibly, Google managed to get local search working out of US while MS looks like they are still wondering how Google managed such a miracle...and we, the loyal customers are waiting, waiting, waiting... (and probably a few switiching to Android out of desperation)

All these commenst and articles do is show how much Microsoft is truly clueless about what their users want.

I think from seeing all these comments that we can all agree on one thing: Microsoft created something big. Something huge. And undeniably sexy! I have friends at work who hate knowing they can't have her in their phone, especially since they love Halo. Shows a bit of geek flair...and what better place to have it than here: My awesome Windows Phone-powered Nokia Lumia Icon ;)

It irritates me to see that they're surprised that the majority of their market, who have been eagerly awaiting Cortana, switched regions to experience it. US market for windows phone is small, which is probably why cortana went there first - but don't act surprised when people in Europe and other parts of the world find a way to get this feature that was so hyped up and then denied to a huge portion of users for the simple reason that Microsoft doesn't want to admit the US isn't the best starting point.
It'd be one thing if a majority of WP users were Americans in America but they aren't. And it's frankly disappointing that the need for secrecy in development outweighs the need for a great product for the European, Asian, and Oceania market.
I was disappointed to hear Cortana was a US exclusive, here in AUS I never expected to have much priority but surely other markets take precedence? Will give better, more well rounded results? If you want a beta group, the larger the better, so why launch to one of your smaller markets?? For now, you're getting botched results - you have no idea how the average American uses Cortana because over half your sample group are non-Americans. You'll launch a product that insists that something like 50% of US users prefer the temperature in Celsius and distances in km. Would it really have been so hard to launch in Europe first? /rant

Still nothing for french users :-/. I guess I'll practise my english then. Anyway it works perfectly here. (thank god there's beta programs and always a way to get into it)

So they need around 6 months just to make it availible in English in other countries? Msft in a nutshell for ya.

What Ash said:

"So I think you'll see a lot of movement on that front in the next six months. I think this – the number one priority for the team is get this in the hands of as many customers as possible. We're certainly trying to expand the feature set but I think we're more interested in getting it out to consumers, seeing how they react to the current features and then getting out to more consumers. The best way for us to do that is to expand aggressively internationally."

Nothing about English. We know for a fact China is getting in the coming weeks and India is close too. The six months is them pushing it out to other markets, regardless of language, on an accelerated schedule.

Nuance matters, here. I know it's fun to slam Microsoft, because all the cool kids in comments do it, but it's bit unfair to misrepresent what is actually said.

Yeah, sure. But sometimes (sadly more often than never) MS is just lacking common sense. Why don't they just let us activate Cortana in the settings stating that she's still in beta and only understanding English language so that if we want to use her (and help them get some more data) we can do so without having to change our region. Next thing up on MS lacks common sense: Xbox Music vs Zune ...

I wonder if it comes to India in Hindi or atleast hinglish. Although I'm comfortable with English but hey its nice to have an option

Its good that data mining in beta version ensures that the availablity and need of Cortana expand and reach out to maximum customers.. Truly said. I am waiting for Cortana to land in India and absorbs the indian culture, treditions and languages in future and the same for the rest of the country like china Japan... Infact all are desparately waiting for such technological response.

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