Cortana packs her bags, heads to Windows Insiders in India, Japan and elsewhere

Testers in Japan, Australia, Canada and India can soon try Microsoft's virtual assistant

People testing the latest versions of Windows 10 in Japan, Canada, Australia and India will soon be receiving a visit from Microsoft's virtual assistant, Cortana.

Cortana will be available as an optional download for people running the latest beta of Windows 10 through the Windows Insider Program in Japan, along with English speakers in Canada, Australia and India, Microsoft announced Tuesday.

English speakers in India will be getting an "early version" of the assistant that will be updated with an improved voice later this month, according to Gabe Aul, a Microsoft Vice President who has been the face of the Windows Insider Program.

Making Cortana available to outside testing is a key part of Microsoft's plan for developing the assistant for new markets. The company will be collecting feedback from early users and take that to improve Cortana going forward.

This marks the first expansion of Cortana's availability since Windows 10 launched last month. Cortana is currently only available to consumers in 7 countries: the U.S., U.K., China, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Later this year, Microsoft plans to deliver Cortana to Windows Insiders in Brazil, Mexico and French speakers in Canada.

As Microsoft has explained previously, migrating Cortana to a new country isn't just a matter of translating everything she says for a new language. The company takes time to create a version of the assistant that reflects local customs (she'll "bow" to Japanese users, for example) and pulls in information that's relevant to people in a specific country. Case in point: Chinese users can open Cortana to get an air quality forecast, which isn't something that's available in the U.S.

In addition to spreading Cortana to other countries, Microsoft recently made its assistant publicly available on Android with a new beta app for phones running Google's mobile operating system.

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Blair Hanley Frank

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