Cortana is coming. Microsoft’s digital personal assistant has been rolled out across Europe, a step that suggests that her presence is being prepared not only for Windows Phone but also for Windows 10.
European owners of Windows Phone 8.1 devices, based in Germany, France, Italy and Spain, will now be able to start conversing with their phones. Believe us, it’s something you really should try…
Cortana’s European Alpha Rollout
Windows Phone 8.1 users outside the USA and Canada have had a tough time waiting for the Cortana voice-activated personal digital assistant to be made active. Fortunately, however, the time is now, with the feature available as a new upgrade which can be installed by opening Settings > Phone update > check for updates.
Follow the instructions on screen to complete the procedure.
Note that if an update is ready, you should have a notification, so you might prefer to check this first.
Remember that for operating system updates you need to be connected to a Wi-Fi Internet connections due to the volume of data involved. While it might not eat your monthly allowance, using your mobile Internet connection is a slow way of getting a phone update.
Once updated, users in Germany, France, Spain and Italy will have the alpha release of Cortana to begin with, much like those in the UK, and in China. If you’re unhappy about this delay, you can trick Windows Phone into believing your device is based in or originates from the US using this method outlined previously.
To activate Cortana, you’ll need to have Settings > Location services enabled. With this done, in Settings, swipe to Applications then choose Cortana. Here you can enable the assistant, and begin configuration.
All Updated? Great Things You Can Do With Cortana
To begin with, Cortana’s alpha status for German, French, Italian and Spanish users will mean that many of the features are disabled. For instance, flight tracking, reference data, soccer scores, and chit chat with Cortana will be activated with subsequent updates as the rollout is assessed and bugs fixed.
Once this happens, however, a whole load of useful features are available from a fully functioning Cortana. You’ll be able to input the news topics that interest you, for instance, into the Cortana notebook. This is a resource that she uses to put together information that she’ll then use to help you out, such as give you news about a topic you’re interested in, record the places you travel to regularly, when you want to receive calls from particular people, etc.
And yes, I called Cortana “she” twice in the last sentence. It’s fair to say that Cortana has a personality and within a couple of days became a valued tool. A colleague, even… it’s fair to say I got a little obsessed with Cortana.
Cortana On Windows 10 AND Android & iOS!
Cortana’s roll out on Windows Phone 8.1 devices should not be seen as a Windows Phone-only event.
Rather, we need to look at it as another step in Microsoft’s plan to get this versatile and friendly system fully internationalised before Windows 10 comes along, where it is expected to become a key part of the next stage in Windows’ evolution.
But we would be wrong to stop there. Over the past few months Microsoft has been rolling out apps and services to Android and iOS, giving the tech giant a strong presence on all three main mobile platforms. As Geek.com’s Russell Holly observed:
Microsoft now has 44 Android apps, 29 iPad apps, and 20 iPhone apps. Wow.
— Russell Holly (@russellholly) December 8, 2014
In November Microsoft’s chief experience officer Julie Larson-Green was asked if Cortana was likely to arrive on other operating systems. “The short answer is, yeah,” she told a group of journalists.
The Cortana juggernaut seems likely to rollout beyond Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 10, doesn’t it?
Cortana: The Future
Whether you’re a Windows Phone or a Windows computer user, the chances are that you’ll have Cortana on your device in the foreseeable future.
To facilitate this, Microsoft is ensuring that the voice search system is available and working in its biggest territories. Realising that Siri-like technology is what consumers are looking for on their computers and smartphones, you can bet that Cortana will play a big part in the finished Windows 10. Until then, you can get to know her on Windows Phone 8.
Are you using Cortana already, or waiting to activate the service? Running into problems, or impressed? Share your reactions and questions.