Microsoft's new voice control not due in Australia until 2015

Some of the more unique selling points of the Windows Phone 8.1 update won't be making their way to Australia until next year.

While Microsoft was making plenty of noise about its new Windows Phone 8.1 update at Microsoft Build overnight, some of the more unique selling points won't be making their way to Australia until next year.

Microsoft Australia has revealed that it's new Siri-esque Cortana voice assistant won't be in Australia this year. One of the key features highlighted at Microsoft's Build keynote, Cortana uses Bing search to provide natural sounding responses to questions and can also be used to set reminders or update a smartphone's calendar.

At launch, Microsoft announced that Cortana would be tested in beta over the coming months before a broader release in the US and the UK; however, Microsoft Australia Windows Phone management lead Joe Walkden said it would not arrive in Australia until 2015.

"Cortana will launch shortly in the US as a beta, then we will bring Cortana to the UK and China in the second half of 2014, with other countries to follow in 2015," he said. "To ensure a quality experience in any new market requires work on both local voice engines and local data, which both have high quality bars."

While Australia doesn't make the cut for the initial rollout, the local launch will be part of Microsoft's "aggressively expanding support" for the service according to Walkden.

What hasn't been mentioned is how the service will work in the local market. Walkden would not be drawn on details about the Australian iteration of Cortana, including whether it would be geared to understand Australian accents and respond with locally-relevant information.

Localising voice control services is certainly not a new issue: Apple released a Siri update last month that brought a "more natural" Australian voice to iOS, while Samsung has made a big point of the Australian Natural Voice Control that it developed for its high-end TVs in association with Macquarie University's linguistics department.

Let's hope that Cortana's slower journey to Australia results in a service that is more in-tune with the local patois.

 

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