A couple of weeks ago, Apple bought Siri, a company that has developed “virtual assistant” software for the iPhone. Being familiar with both Siri and the virtual assistant market, when I heard about this I . . . shrugged.

A virtual assistant helps you get things done. Most frequently that means you hand off the tasks you don’t have time or expertise for to another person, or in the case of us here at Virtual VIP, another company.

Software can do part of that, but ultimately the only time software “does something” for you is when you spend lots of time instructing it in how to do what you want. That’s not what a virtual assistant is, and explains why I’ve never spoken about the well-hyped and well-funded Siri before.

But from Apple’s perspective, there’s an interesting business change. With the iPhone having become ubiquitous and Apple making it clear in their plans for iPhone OS 4.0 that they intend to put their hands into every part of what happens on their devices, it makes sense that they’d like to own an app—even if the reality is that it’s just another “me too” information gathering tool—that they can use to keep their hands on iPhone users all . . . the . . . more . . . often.

Siri is no more a virtual assistant than any other software that does the kind of things it does. But Apple acquiring Siri, virtual assistant or not, is a smart play. It’s the kind of end-to-end customer ownership that we teach our clients about at Virtual VIP Business Change Coaching.

I approve . . . just not of the phrase virtual assistant being used here.

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