The good news? The forthcoming Windows Phone 8.1 update will include Cortana, a Bing-powered virtual assistant that lets you talk to your phone and have it do things, Siri-style. The bad news is that it won't be out in Australia for quite a while.
Microsoft demonstrated Cortana at its Build 2014 developer conference in San Francisco today. It allows you to make queries either by voice or by typing, including the kind of alarm setting and search functions that are familiar on iOS and Android devices. One aspect that's particularly appealing: you can track what Cortana knows about you and interacts with you and customise it via a "notebook" feature, so you can eliminate stuff you no longer care about or set "quiet hours" when you shouldn't be interrupted.
However, Australians shouldn't get too excited. Initially, Cortana will only be available as a beta in the US. It will subsequently expand to other countries. Corporate vice president Joe Belfiore singled out the UK and China as future destinations, but didn't mention Australia. We're not going to see it before 2015 at the earliest.
That's not altogether surprising. Firstly, the Australian accent is semi-notorious for breaking speech recognition systems. Secondly, Cortana is heavily reliant on Bing, and Bing's capabilities in Australia are (to put it kindly) a lot weaker than in the US. I'd imagine we'll see it eventually -- but for now, voice recognition is one area where Windows Phone will remain well behind its rivals in the Australian market.
Disclosure: Angus Kidman travelled to San Francisco as a guest of Microsoft.