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Want 802.11n in your Mac to work? For you: only $4.99

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Black_mac_bookI remember not too long ago when people realized that Apple was putting 802.11n functionality into the latest MacBook and MacBook Pro lines. Back then I thought it was a decent idea; at this point, the 802.11n draft spec should be relatively stable, so it’s a gamble with good odds. Today, I’m not so sure it’s all that great of an idea. Thanks to the interpretation of the Sarbanes-Oxley law, Apple is planning to charge a nominal fee of $4.99 to activate the faster wireless speeds.

While I can respect Apple wanting to follow the law; I just wonder if $4.99 is the lowest fee that would satisfy it. I would have rather seen a more modest fee to technically satisfy the rules; if they can charge $0.99 for a song on iTunes, maybe a buck would be enough to activate a product feature that you already own. What’s even worse in my mind: will other companies use the same interpretation to start charging for firmware upgrades that add functionality to existing devices? This is a precedent I’d rather not see….

5 Responses to “Want 802.11n in your Mac to work? For you: only $4.99”

  1. It’s a distraction. Everyone’s so focused on the fee, they’re not paying attention to why the feature was unadvertised. Namely, they didn’t want Mac users to buy some other “n” router before their new Airport Extreme was ready, and they wanted a crowd of users ready to upgrade at release time. Smart move but a bit devious. Not the first time they’ve used a distraction like this, but it works every time (though not on everyone :P ).

  2. I’ll defer to Mark for the SOX interpretations, but it sure sounds like an excuse to me.

    The odd thing, and quite surprising even to me, is that I’m not sure I object to charging for firmware feature upgrades. Support for that sort of thing is almost non-existant, and if I could extend the life of a major purchase with ongoing feature improvements at reasonable prices, I think I would actually prefer that. As it is, it just seems like product improvements are far and few between for released products because they focus primarily on the next greatest product that they want you to buy as a replacement.

    However, if it is simply a revenue play, and there is no additional support, or if upgrade prices get out of hand, we’ll all be regretting the change of strategy.

  3. I’ve read the related articles and this just doesn’t wash. Sarbanes-Oxley doesn’t care. The argument is using a service or construction model and that doesn’t fit a product sale.

    If it’s an UNadvertised feature that doesn’t work, it’s nothing. Lots of things have features partially implemented in preparation for the next release or model. Turning them on wouldn’t change the price of the product. Apple wouldn’t get an extra 4.99 if they included it and couldn’t reduce the price by 4.99 by leaving it out. They didn’t claim to have included it and so they only shipped 99% of the promised product. Not to mention that it’s completely immaterial to their financial statments.

    It seems that the options scandal has Apple really running scared if the auditors are running the company. I suspect that someone raised a farfetched argument and Apple’s finance team no longer has the guts to object. They’re too busy trying to keep Steve employed (and yes, there’s a real chance he could get the ax).

    My opinion based on on what I know, it’s BS. I too work for a publicly traded company and somedays you win the Sarbanes-Oxley arguments somedays you lose but nothing requires you to blatantly pass on the costs to your customers.