Microsoft has been working on Cortana for a long time now, but the plans for its digital assistant are far grander than anyone previously expected.
The first new feature related to Cortana is still a long way from being finished. When Windows 10 launches, Cortana will only be available in seven countries: the U.S., UK, China, France, Italy, Germany and Spain. The reason for Cortana's limited availabilities has been questioned for some time.
Although it makes sense to exclude Cortana in a nation where she doesn't know the common language in that area, what logical reason is there to keep Cortana out of Canada or India? Both of these nations primarily speak English, and French is widely spoken in Canada, so why not enable it?
The reason for the selective release of Cortana is actually caused by the development of Cortana's personality. Microsoft decided that it wants Cortana to be unique to each nation where she's used. Cortana will be programmed to reflect the local dialect of the language used inside of each country, as well as to be familiar with idioms and unique speech patterns that are used inside of that country.
This will help to make Cortana feel like a regular part of the community, but Microsoft doesn't stop there. Cortana is being programmed to understand the humor of an area and to have cultural awareness. For example, in the UK, Cortana knows that self-deprecating humor is popular, and she will use dry humor, irony, and sarcasm when replying to you.
If a country is particularly patriotic with a strong national identity like Italy, Cortana will be programmed to respond in a way that reinforces this cultural value, and will even be capable of singing the national anthem when asked.
In adding these personal touches, Microsoft hopes that Cortana will become more popular and user-friendly than the rival Siri program used by long-time competitor Apple.
Although these are nice features, it is interesting that Microsoft doesn't allow you to choose which version of Cortana you get. For example, someone who has moved away from his home country may want Cortana to speak his native tongue and use a culturally-specific personality. However, Microsoft doesn't appear to have any plans for this kind of flexibility at present.