So the rising discontent with Apple's new habit of selective feature enabling got us thinking -- while we're not experts on the subject, the generally accepted reasoning for the $20 iPod touch upgrade fee is the accounting requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act: iPhone and Apple TV updates are free since revenue from those products is realized as a subscription over a period of time, but iPod touch updates can't be free since Apple just records that revenue directly. That certainly makes sense to us when applied to things like the 802.11n Enabler, which was trivially cheap and turned on unadvertised hardware features, but it strikes us as being a pretty big stretch when applied to a $20 package of new software applications. iPod name or no, the iPod touch is essentially a little computer, and the whole purpose of software is to enable "significant unadvertised new features" on a computer. For Apple (or anyone) to say that a mail app is a "significant new feature" for a computer is pushing the line just a bit far, and it makes us wonder how the company accounts for new versions of iTunes, QuickTime, and Safari, each of which add new features to already-sold Macs -- and how things are going to play out when the iPhone / iPod touch SDK is released next month. We've got a call into Apple to get to the bottom of it all, we'll let you know what (if anything) we find out.
Disclaimer: Although this post was written by an attorney, it is not meant as legal advice or analysis and should not be taken as such.