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Microsoft's Brit kid Cortana lands on UK WinPhone 8.1, but China's is the real cutie

Siri rival gets accent in OS update

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Microsoft will be fine-tuning its virtual assistant Cortana in its first update to Windows Phone 8.1. The Siri rival is predicted to arrive on UK users' smartphones over the next few months.

The preview pack for developers is already out, of course.

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Cortana will be coming to folks in Blighty and China as a beta in the update and to Canada, India and Oz as an alpha release. In the UK, Cortana will have a local accent and will tailor her responses to local sports, the London Stock Exchange and commuter conditions, while in China, Cortana will speak Mandarin and come with a different appearance, animations and sound – specifically a cute oval face.

American users aren’t being left out either, with a number of Cortana tweaks in the update, including natural language improvements and “neat additions to her personality”.

Microsoft is putting a lot of focus on Cortana as a virtual assistant with context and personality, rather than just a voice-activated search service, and has left no doubt about which other virtual assistant it reckons Cortana is beating. A new ad for the assistant directly compared it to Apple’s Siri, mocking the latter for its lack of natural language skills.

As well as the Cortana updates, the Windows Phone package is going to include the ability to group apps into Live Folders on the Start Screen, improvements to the Xbox Music app and SMS merging. ®

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