Cortana’s European debut hasn’t gone exactly as planned. Following her introduction as part of the Windows Phone 8.1 upgrade, we learned that the virtual assistant wouldn’t be available for those outside of the US. However, an easy workaround which involved switching the region on phones would have her up and running immediately. Unfortunately, doing so also meant that your Store region would change and that alone would cause all sorts of inconveniences.
Nonetheless, Cortana did eventually become available in the UK and China with the release of Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1, introducing better voice and accent recognition for customers in those regions. Support for more regions is to be expected as Cortana makes her way out of beta. Today, a tweet from Microsoft France’s Senior Director of Operator Channels notes that the personal assistant is on an accelerated pace and should see her debut in France in the coming months. That would make French Cortana’s third supported language, following English and Chinese.
Additionally, Cortana ‘how-to’ pages have appeared on the Portuguese, Netherlands, and Spanish versions of the official Windows Phone website indicating that there may be a mass European rollout in the near future, hopefully by the holiday season.
Microsoft has been praised for hiring Jen Taylor (the same voice actress who voiced Cortana in the Halo games) to voice Cortana on Windows Phone, but have understandably opted to use different voice actresses for the UK and China versions. So we can expect Microsoft to continue to rely on native speakers to voice Cortana depending on regions, which is undoubtedly a time-consuming process. The end result is worth it though considering how natural Cortana’s voice has been so far in her supported regions, especially compared to her competition.