What Is Cortana?
Just in case you haven’t been paying attention to the Windows 10 hype over the past few months, here’s a quick primer.
Cortana is the digital assistant embedded in Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system. Cortana keeps track of personal appointments and you can ask questions instead of typing in search text. The artificial intelligence behind Cortana learns your personal preferences and interests over time, getting smarter and able to go beyond asking questions to making personal suggestions. Think Siri on iOS or Google Now on Android and you have the general idea.
Look beside the Start button on a Windows 10 PC and you’ll see the invitation: “Hi. I’m Cortana. Ask me a question.”
To learn more about Microsoft’s personal digital assistant, be sure to read Gadjo Sevilla’s primer on all things Cortana.
Where Has Cortana Been Hiding?
When Microsoft first began rolling out Windows 10 to PCs this summer, Canadians noticed something missing: Cortana!
Microsoft made the decision to emphasize the personality of its personal digital assistant and wanted it to have a unique flavour for each of its primary markets. Only a few countries—including the United States and Great Britain—got Cortana as part of that initial rollout. While some users figured out how to hack Windows 10 to get that American version, the majority of Canadian Windows 10 PC users have been wondering what the fuss is about.
How, Exactly, Has Cortana Been Canadianized?
The manager responsible for the the Canadian version of Cortana was recently interviewed by the Globe & Mail (you can read the full article here, but it is behind a paywall).
He says the that while the overall tone of the British Cortana was formal and professional, and the American version went for warm and friendly, Cortana in Canada is “optimized for politeness.”
Playing to Canadian stereotypes, the Canadian Cortana will occasionally apologize even when not at fault for anything. She has been trained to correctly pronounce Canadian place names, knows the names of famous Canadians and when it comes to hockey is a fan of Team Canada. Speaking of hockey, if asked her favourite vehicle, Canada’s Cortana expresses fondness for a Zamboni. She can also rhyme off measurements in metric.
Of course, the Canadian version of Cortana will do everything Cortana is famous for, including managing a user’s calendar.
How Do I Get Cortana?
Microsoft began rolling out the first major update to Windows 10 for PCs and tablets on November 12. Included in that update is the Canadian version of Cortana.
I checked with Microsoft support and they say the 3GB Windows 10 update should download and install automatically. However, if you installed Windows 10 very recently, you’ll have to wait until 31 days have passed since that initial install date before the Windows 10 Version 1511 update will download.
Also, the French Canadian version of Cortana remains on hold until 2016, so if your Windows 10 device settings are configured for French (Canada), it looks like you’ll have to wait a bit longer …
Want to Try Out Cortana?
Even if you don’t have a Windows 10 device, you can check out just how authentic Cortana’s Canadian revamp is. Best Buy is holding Cortana for Windows 10 demonstrations at stores across Canada. Check the schedule here and listen to Cortana in action at your local Best Buy store.