A screenshot shows Cortana virtual assistant in action. Pic: AP.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Microsoft is spreading its Cortana digital assistant abroad, starting with China and the UK.

The company’s corporate vice president of operating systems, Joe Belfiore, said Wednesday in Beijing that Chinese and British users of Windows Phones will get the voice-recognizing app in a coming update to Windows Phone 8.1.

Users in Australia, Canada and India will also get a version of Cortana, although the company said that would be an earlier test mode.

The update, described in April at Microsoft Corp.’s developer conference, will also introduce new hardware capabilities as the software giant seeks hardware partners beyond Nokia, whose device unit it purchased in April.

The update allows for phones to use two SIM cards, supports a better screen resolution for lower-end phones and adds support for so-called “smart covers.”