While we have no doubt that Cortana is as good a voice assistant as any (it predicted the outcome of 14 matches in the FIFA World Cup correctly), it’s limited reach (read, US) has been somewhat of a disappointment. However, that shouldn’t be a problem when the Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 hits the market. According to Microsoft, the update will bring Cortana to China and the UK in beta form and to Australia, India and Canada in alpha form, implying it will still need some work in these markets before working as good as you’d expect. Nonetheless, it’s a start in the right direction.
Cortana for China however will be getting some additional special treatment. Cortana, called “Xiao Na” in the region will have an alternate avatar with different visual appearance, animations, and sounds. She supports Chinese (Mandarin) in voice, text, and speech. She also has specialized suggestions tuned specifically for people living in China, like air quality information in weather cards, information about driving restrictions, and the ability to track local TV shows and celebrities.
Other markets should also get some local features. In the US, Cortana will be getting new natural language scenarios, snooze times for reminders, the ability to invoke Cortana hands-free in your car for phones connected to car Bluetooth kits.
Besides, Microsoft also revealed that Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 will be bringing Live Folders, Live Store tile, better Xbox Music, better privacy and more.