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iPod touch fee could go bye-bye


Chris Foresman over at Ars Technica has an interesting pronouncement: A rule governed by the Financial Accounting Standards Board, that's been heavily lobbied for by Apple and other electronics companies, may be enough to lift the charge that iPod touch owners have had to pay for updates of significant features to their devices. It's complicated, but it all has to do with "subscription accounting" -- devices that gain "significant new functionality" after their sale, like the iPhone, have to be reported over a series of years rather than all at the same time (presumably because the revenues associated with the product were the result of a series of updates, not just one lump sum).

For the iPhone, it's fine -- they have subscription charges associated with them over two years anyway. But the iPod touch is different -- because Apple doesn't want to report the sales of those devices over a period of time, they've had to charge minimum fees for updates -- the $10 (and more recently, $5) that iPod touch owners have paid for the firmware updates. But if the new rule goes in (it still requires FASB approval), then Apple would be able to report sales of the iPod touch all together without having to worry about charging for updates, as well as the dual GAAP and non-GAAP reporting we've heard on their conference calls.

Plus, as Foresman says, it would help Apple's stock price (seeing all of the iPhone's sales at once would boost investor confidence), and it would help developers who are asking all users of both the iPhone and iPod touch to update right away -- they wouldn't have to wait for iPod touch owners to find a few bucks in their couch. With the weight of Apple behind this one, we can probably expect to see the rule approved (even if they have to make some concessions). And so while iPod touch owners will probably have to still keep waiting for a camera, they at least won't have to pay for more software updates.

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