You’ve seen those commercials, right? People with the latest version of the iPhone just speak and things magically happen, courtesy of the very cool (I’m not kidding; it is very cool) Siri Virtual Assistant software built into the iPhone 4S.

Apple, when asked if Siri would be coming to earlier versions of the iPhone, said it couldn’t be done; the newest iPhone is so more powerful than even its most recent predecessor that Siri won’t run on it—or won’t run in a way that’s up to Apple’s performance standards.

Did you wonder if Apple was telling the truth about that? Wonder no more. Apple lied. Siri can run on almost anything.

Now as that article points out, while Siri could run on any computer with a microphone and an Internet connection, the roadblocks that Apple’s put up to prevent that from happening are such that it isn’t likely to occur. And I’m not going to go all egalitarian, indignantly claiming that software should be free, and that Apple is evil (although I do believe that last part). Business is business, and Apple has every right and every incentive to make Siri work as they wish it to work.

But there was no need to lie about what makes Siri tick, and every reason to understand that in an era where information is so readily available and it’s more or less legal to reverse engineer the software in your SmartPhone, honesty is a better policy.

I’m starting to get really worried about Apple’s hubris. Forget how silly it is to call Siri a “Virtual Assistant” in the first place. Forgive Apple, in a general way, for trying to control you through draconian schemes like the iPad-only web publishing deal with Time magazine, or the way that Apple TV handles media. Pure and simple, Apple’s immense success putting together products that its users don’t understand the inner working of and calling that a benefit to those users has ceased to be a sustainable business model.

I don’t talk about this much, but I actually owned a very early model Macintosh way back in 1985. I barely understood computers in those days, but when my 128KB Mac experienced a software problem and the guy in the computer store as much as told me (a bit dishonestly) that there was no way for an end user to fix it I suspected Apple was playing dirty. Problem is, now that Apple products are mainstream, that pattern of lying about the man behind the curtain is becoming the wrong strategy. Toto, we aren’t in Kansas any more.

It’s much easier to explain this as a pure customer service problem. As I told you, Apple’s answer to a recent virus outbreak on Macintosh computers was to lie and claim it hadn’t happened. And of course, the debacle that is Apple Personal Pickup speaks to Apple’s lack of understanding in a whole different way.

And that’s what’s wrong with Siri, and so much of Apple. (Especially) once you become big enough to have a target on your back, you must be open and honest about the way you do business.

That’s customer service, and so far it’s where Apple is failing to understand business change.

YOU aren’t making those mistakes, right?

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