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Microsoft brings its Cortana virtual assistant to four more European countries, in alpha only for now

Microsoft brings its Cortana virtual assistant to four more European countries, in alpha only for now

Microsoft has announced that it’s extending support for Cortana to four more European countries.

First unveiled as part of Windows Phone 8.1, the Siri-like virtual assistant was initially launched as a beta product in the US only, before arriving in the UK and China too, as well as a handful of other countries in alpha.

Cortana promises to get more intelligent over time as it learns a user’s individual preferences, serving up alerts for local weather, news, and any meetings they may have. Location-specific reminders can also be triggered, so if you know you need to buy something specific for dinner, you’ll be alerted to this when you arrive at the supermarket, for example.

Now, Microsoft is continuing its international roll-out, adding France, Germany, Spain, and Italy to the mix. An update to the Windows Phone Developer Preview Program will be arriving later today.

As with the Canada, India, and Australia launch back in July, the latest roll-out will be in a slightly restricted ‘alpha’ mode, which means that a handful of features you’d find in the beta incarnation won’t be available. These include flight-tracking and reference data — for example, “How wide is the Mississippi?” won’t garner any results just now.

The digital assistant is only being made available to those signed up to the Windows Phone Developer Preview Program initially, as Microsoft seeks input from the developer community to improve Cortana’s speech and language-recognition capabilities.

Indeed, part of the reason it takes so long to introduce Cortana to new markets relates to the complexities of localization. The general idea is that Cortana will be as human-like as possible, with a personality and region-specific accents, as well as a local “sense of humor.”

The information it provides to users will also be tailored to each market, with the European version displaying soccer results from the major leagues in each country.

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