With the release of the iPhone 4S, Siri is the talk of the town. Even our own Joshua Massre pleasantly enjoyed bossing the prickly robo-assistant around for the iPhone 4S review. And everyone asks one thing: why isn’t Siri available to all iPhone owners?

The answer is this: Apple’s taken a page out of the Google playbook. Just like the search giant has every new service in perpetual beta until some five years later, Apple isn’t going to release brand new and still highly unchecked software out to the public masses. Well, the company is and it isn’t. If you put down at least $200 with a contract for the iPhone 4S, congratulations! You’re in on the Siri beta. If not, you’ll have to wait.

It may sound like something Gamestop would do, like a pre-order to get early access to the latest demo or beta a week before everyone else, but in fact Apple has to do it this way. On the one hand, they want to get as much data from new users as they can. After all, Siri is in beta, and Apple is recording all of the data Joe Consumer inputs when talking to their newly beloved. But on the other hand, Apple simply doesn’t have the capacity, and most definitely manpower to rummage through 20+ million iPhone owners suddenly talking to their personal assistants.

As big as the computer giant is, their business isn’t in servers enough to allow every iPhone user in the US, France, England, Japan, Australia, Canada and Germany at launch, let alone the 22 other countries getting the 4S on October 28. In fact, iPhone 4 and 3GS owners may be lucky if they get Siri by the end of the year, with Apple’s promise to have the 4S available in 70 countries by December 31. Though because Siri only works in three languages (English, French and German, though three English dialects – American, British and Australian), releasing in more countries won’t spike traffic to Apple’s Siri servers.

After Apple has some time to acclimate to the current iPhone 4S Siri usage, and can determine how much more cloud space it’ll need to accommodate the full iPhone userbase and growth, the rest of us non-4S owners will get a shot at Siri without walking into an Apple store. That way, we can ask our ludicrous questions without public embarrassment.

James Pikover

Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.