Cortana is coming to several new countries thanks to the Windows Phone 8.1 update. Users in China and the UK will get Cortana as a “beta” while Canada, India and Australia get the Siri-like assistant as an alpha.

For the Chinese version, Microsoft tweaked Cortana a bit. “She has an alternative form which has a different visual appearance, animations, and sounds,” writes Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore in a blog post.

Cortana also gives Chinese users specialized suggestions such as air quality information in weather cards. Now you will know if you can see more than 30 feet in front of you before you even get up.

The UK market is getting support for UK spellings and pronunciations. Big fan of the EPL? Cortana will give you all the latest data on those sports teams. Cortana’s voice and accent gets the UK treatment “to be more locally relevant.”

A few improvements make their way to the U.S. market as well. These include additional natural language scenarios, snooze times for reminders, etc.

Microsoft is also introducing an alpha program for Canada, India and Australia. “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,” writes Belfiore. The alpha program is opt-in and will use the U.S. and UK Cortana models.

Besides the Cortana updates, Microsoft is also adding Live Folders. “You asked for it! You can now organize your apps into folders on your Start screen!” Drag a tile over another title to create a folder. You can then open the folder and arrange the tiles however you want.

The Xbox Music app is getting a few performance updates. They mostly center around app load and list scrolling.

Check out Belfiore’s post to get the lowdown on every update coming to Windows Phone 8.1. When can you update? Users in the Windows Phone 8.1 Preview for Developers can get their hands on it next week. Regular users will see it over the next few months.


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