Cortana Coming to India in 'Alpha' Form With Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1

Cortana Coming to India in 'Alpha' Form With Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1
Microsoft is all set to expand the availability of its Cortana voice-based virtual assistant to countries including India, China, Canada, Australia and the UK, with the release of Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1.

The Redmond giant on Wednesday in an official blog post revealed that the Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 will be available in preview form for developers starting next week, while the update will be rolled-out to devices running Windows Phone 8.1 in the coming months.

(Also see: Microsoft's Cortana vs. Apple's Siri vs. Google Now)

Joe Belfiore, Corporate Vice President and Manager for Windows Phone Program Management at Microsoft, said in the blog post, "Today [Wednesday] I am in China to talk about how we're continuing this vision in the very first update to Windows Phone 8.1, which we're making available in preview form for developers next week. This update has some great new features for everyone around the world, and in particular we also included some that were completely customized for and by people in China."

The Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 with Cortana will be available in China and the UK as a 'beta' version, while in India, Canada, and Australia it will available as an 'alpha' version, when released in the preview form for developers next week.

Befliore elaborated on the motivation for the wider roll-out on the Windows Phone blog, saying, "We know there has been a lot of enthusiasm about Cortana in many other markets, and we wanted to give more people the ability to start using Cortana. Therefore, we're also starting a new "alpha" program in three countries: Canada, India, and Australia. This early adopter program will be opt-in and give people the ability to try Cortana using English language models from the US and the UK."

(Also see: Microsoft Windows Phone 8.1 review)

Also announced by Belfiore was an array of upcoming features due with Windows Phone 8.1 Update, several which had been previously rumoured in leaks. The new features include Live Folders, giving users the ability to organise apps into folders on the Start screen of the device; an updated Xbox Music app which brings background sync of songs collection along with swipe to advance; a Live Tile for the Windows Phone Store shows the latest apps or games, and also an SMS interface improvement that brings the ability to select multiple messages for deletion and forwarding.

Other new additions in the Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 include Apps Corner, which will offer a special sandboxed mode for selective apps (like a protected Start screen), and enhanced privacy and security features such as the ability to send and receive data via a virtual private network (VPN).

Originally introduced at Build Conference, Microsoft had revealed that the Cortana would be first available in the US as a 'beta' and later would be released in more countries. For those unaware, the name Cortana was taken from a popular AI character in Microsoft's blockbuster video game franchise, Halo.

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