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Apple pushes to change subscription accounting rules

Apple pushes to change subscription accounting rules
Nilay Patel
Nilay Patel|September 14, 2009 6:58 PM
Apple's pretty famous for using subscription accounting for the iPhone and Apple TV as a way to bend the rules and offer free software updates after purchase -- basically, instead of putting all the money from the sale on the books at once, the company's accountants spread the revenue out over two years, extending the "transaction" to cover upgrades. That's great for iPhone owners, but it's not so great for Apple or its investors, since the company's stock price doesn't always reflect the true amount of iPhone money coming in -- in fact, Apple earnings reports now include a second, unofficial balance sheet that does away with subscription accounting to show off the real numbers. Yeah, it's confusing, but it might finally be about to change, since the Financial Accounting Standards Board just tentatively approved new rules that could allow Apple to do away with subscription accounting and still deliver free updates. That means Apple's quarterly earnings will now feature much larger official revenue and profit figures -- last quarter's official revenue was $8.34 billion, while the unofficial number was $9.74 billion -- the lawyers and accountants will be happy, and we'll still get free iPhone updates. Good deal all around -- except for iPod touch owners, who will still have to pay $9.95 and not get a camera.

[Via Yahoo]