Siri on iPad and iPhone 4

There’s a question that’s been asked: Why isn’t Siri available on other iOS 5 devices?

Answers have varied, but a common one seems to be that it’s an attempt to engage in a scaled rollout. Turning Siri on for anyone with an iOS 5 compatible device would have resulted in much greater load on the servers, and so, the theory goes, Apple used the hardware as a gatekeeper. Not a bad theory.

Another theory is simply that they wanted to give people a reason to upgrade. I don’t give this theory as much credit, since I don’t think that’s how Apple works. Apple has been providing new features to existing phones since the first iPhone updates. Apple wants to keep you happy with your iPhone, so you keep buying apps, and when the time comes, make your next phone an iPhone as well.

My theory is a bit different.

I think Apple may not be making Siri available to customers of older phones because they didn’t pay for it.

Revenue recognition rules are a funny thing. They prevent companies from adding features to existing products, because the users of those existing products didn’t pay for them. Remember when Apple had to charge a small fee for a WiFi driver update that added 802.11N to MacBook Pro’s that had the hardware but didn’t come with drivers? They didn’t do that because they wanted to, they did that because the accounting rules forced them to.

Siri is “in beta” now, and I think the reason it’s labelled as such is because it sets the expectation that the feature isn’t done; that there will be updates to it that are included in the price you’re paying for the hardware, even though those features aren’t done yet. It makes it easier for Apple to add features without getting into accounting trouble.

So, could Apple make Siri available for existing devices, the way it did with that network driver? Yes, it could. And I’m guessing that once the initial rush on the servers is done, and once the software is a little farther along, they may do just that.

Would you pay $4.99 to add Siri to your existing phone?