An Apple software engineer reportedly working on the Chinese-language version of the company's Siri voice assistant says support for Mandarin, Japanese and Russian will be added in March, as well as localized navigation and information services.
Chinese tech blog DoNews' source claimed on Wednesday that internal testing for the Chinese version of Siri is already underway (machine translation) and that the service will be capable of "understanding" and "speaking" Mandarin when it launches next month, though Cantonese-speaking Chinese users will have to wait for a future update.
Siri's new language support would serve about 850 million of the approximately 1.4 billion people living in mainland China who speak Mandarin, however the over 30 million residents of Hong Kong and Taiwan would be left out as they speak either a different dialect of the country's official language or Cantonese.
Interestingly, the source alleges that Siri will also be able to offer localized information and directions, a feature that has so far been reserved for U.S. users.
Japanese and Russian support are also said to be coming in the supposed March rollout, though details were scarce and it is not known whether localized information and navigation services would also be included in those countries.
The news is in line with previous reports that estimated a March launch for the Mandarin language version of Siri, and if true will only help bolster the already high demand for the iPhone 4S in China.
After being introduced alongside the iPhone 4S in October, 2011, Siri has been limited to English, French and German, though Apple promised support for Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Italian and Spanish would come in 2012.
A report in December revealed that Apple was looking to build out Siri's language base in an advertisement for "Language Technologies Engineers" who would be "bringing new languages to Siri, Apple’s new personal assistant technology for iPhone, as well as other cloud based services."