Microsoft Cortana will not be available in Asia at launch

Psyched about Microsoft's newest voice assistant? If you live in the Asia Pacific region, the bad news is that this feature will not be available from the get-go.

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Cortana won't reach Asia till 2015. James Martin/CNET

The latest Windows Phone 8.1 update will make its way to most Windows handsets in the new few months. But if you live in Asia, chances are that some of the more exciting features, such as the Cortana virtual voice assistant, will be missing.

This should come as no surprise to most users in Asia. Features tend to take awhile to trickle down from the US to other parts of the world. Case in point: when Apple's Siri first launched, users in Asia weren't able to do much with it at first (though the feature was turned on at least).

It's likely Microsoft will need to take some time to work out the kinks for the region. Not everyone speaks English in Asia. And even if they did, there's still the issue of accents and getting the software algorithms to understand what's being said.

Interestingly, it remains to be seen here in Asia if voice assistants will actually take off -- there's hardly anyone using such services here in Singapore, where there's a ridiculously high penetration of smartphone users in both the Apple and Android camp.

The somewhat good news is that Cortana is expected to be available for Asia sometime in 2015. It's a long wait for sure, but it's likely possible that impatient users can set their region to the US for early access when it becomes available there.

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The Word Flow keyboard in action. James Martin/CNET

Apart from Cortana, Word Flow keyboard will also not be available for certain languages, such as Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia, which are languages that use the English alphabet. Mandarin is also missing, but it's likely to be implemented really soon since China's a big market for Microsoft.

The last feature that won't make it to some parts of Asia is Wi-Fi Sense, which lets users automatically connect to nearby networks as well as share their home Wi-Fi access without handing out the password. Wi-Fi sense will not be available in Bangladesh, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. It's likely a privacy issue, and we're checking with Microsoft for the official word.

 

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