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Windows 10's Cortana will head to Australia 'this winter'

If you're part of the Windows Insider Program in Australia, India, Canada or Japan, you'll be able to talk to Cortana on your Windows 10 PC soon.

CNET

Microsoft has big plans for its Windows 10 launch later this month, and that includes putting its virtual voice assistant Cortana on more PCs in different countries very soon. The list of countries include Australia, India, Canada and Japan, while those living in Brazil and Mexico can expect to chat with Cortana by the end of the year.

For Australia, Microsoft has confirmed that Cortana will arrive "this winter", but was unable to give a more precise timing.

Cortana access is available only to those that are participating in the Windows Insider Programme when it launches -- Microsoft declined to reveal more details about the general availability when queried.

The release of Cortana with Windows 10 sees the spread of voice assistant technology normally found on smartphones to desktop PCs. Microsoft has been struggling with its phone business for a while now, and moving Cortana to the desktop may help pique interest with its phones (though it's interesting to note Microsoft has made Cortana available on competing mobile platforms as well).

For these new countries where Cortana will be available, Microsoft has customised the voice assistant to better suit the tastes, even tweaking how the voice assistant behaves -- in Australia, Cortana will sound a little more laid back, while in Japan, it behaves more like a "friend of a friend".

"We're not designing a one-size-fits-all experience -- we really wanted to embrace local customs and we took this into account when creating the digital personal assistant to be very unique to each culture, " said Microsoft's Susan Hendrich, principal program manager lead, in a phone interview with CNET. Hendrich has been working on developing Cortana's personality for nearly two years.

"This means having local teams that talk to customers and how to adjust Cortana's personality accordingly. We have writers located in Japan, who have grown up and truly understand the culture, what is culturally appropriate, the importance of national identity, the level of politeness and formality used in chit-chat."

Chit-chat is a feature where you can interact with Cortana by say, asking her for a joke or asking her to tell you a story. In Japan, Cortana is capable of replying to the latter by telling you a local folk tale, or responding to your request to borrow money by replying with a joke (which is also an indirect way of turning someone down in the culture).

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If you ask Cortana to loan you cash, she'll tell you it's not possible to convert bytes to yen. Microsoft

Other features of Cortana include being able to track flights and sport scores, or even anticipating your calendar appointments. It will be able to check the weather and will display all the information you need to an at-a-glance panel called the Notebook.

If you're keen on getting Cortana installed on your PC now, you can hop on the Windows Insider Programme and get the beta installation of Windows 10. Given that Microsoft's new operating system will launch next week though, a little patience could be in order.