Virtually years after the announcements of Apple new iPhone and after reading a few interesting posts on the matter, such as this one, from Redis developer @antirez, here’s my take. One thing that jumps as obvious when we look at the way Apple advertises Siri, i.e. beta, is that it doesn’t want the massive number of iOS 5 adopters to beta-test their new service all at once, in the case things aren’t ready for the masses yet. Just like @danbenjamin pointed out in his last Talk Show podcast with John Gruber, it must really not be trivial to test a service like Siri in the scale required by the hundred millions iOS users. Throttling the flow of users of Siri seems like a efficient way to do just that. But Apple is not the kind of company to Beta-test their software in the wild.
A strong argument, and I think this is where the meat lies, is the product differentiating factor. But I think it goes beyond the idea of “just a feature that the other iPhone’s don’t have”. For the average user, it’s a major feature. It’s not just a piece of software, it’s a whole new experience. And by binding it to the iPhone 4S instead of iOS 5, people see this new experience as a characteristic of the new device. This gives the impression that it’s indeed a huge step forward in the smartphone industry, let alone its better chip, camera and antenna. It provides the “Apple has done it again!” perception, at the device-level, which is where the money lies.
So Siri might eventually – and that would make my day – make it to older devices, but I wouldn’t bet my money on it.