Breathlessly reported worldwide, Apple has been said to be planning to charge $5 for the 802.11n updater for their Core 2 Duo Intel Macs. Pshaw: Everyone's looking for previously unreported news angle on Apple, and a story that seems to have started at iLounge on Jan. 10 seemed to spread across the globe in a day. The item is that Apple will charge $5 for an updater for 802.11n on machines that can be updated. The claim from unnamed "Apple representatives" was that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act will require a fee to be charged to enable features in a product that's already shipped to avoid restating earnings on that product.
Which seems insane to me as the logic for the fee. But as the newsgroup posters say, IANAL (I am not a lawyer), and thus perhaps there's an SEC memo on this that I don't know about. (Post in comments if you have more knowledge.)
All but one Intel Mac model shipped in 2006 that contain Core 2 Duo or Xeon processors can be upgraded using what Apple dubs an "enabler"--a firmware patch coupled with updated AirPort software for Mac OS X--that will be on the CD that comes with the new AirPort Extreme Base Station with 802.11n that's scheduled to ship in February. (Some reporting incorrectly states that Apple said only Core 2 Duo models can be upgraded.)
I asked Apple if the $5 fee was correct. In some limited cases, Apple has charged a fee, often as high as $20, to ship new operating systems discs or an updater that was otherwise available for download. An Apple spokesperson declined to comment on "rumors or speculation," but reiterated that the enabler would ship with new AirPort Extreme Base Stations next month.
Without reading between the lines, it's pretty clear that Apple implicitly told me the enabler won't be restricted. Why? Because by including the enabler on a CD and not stating any limits on upgrades--a system admin could upgrade 100s of Intel Macs with a single enabler--there's way to prevent that enabler from instantly being spread via BitTorrent, email, and so on. They'd have to install some kind of serial-number-based registration system, a tracking methodology via the Internet, and other customer support.
If Apple is interpreting Sarbanes as requiring a fee, they're also going to make it very simple to avoid that fee.
More likely, I suspect that Apple is readying a Mac OS X 10.4.9 update, the final minor release for Tiger, and that the timing of the release of the 802.11n enabler and the updated AirPort Extreme will be tied to 10.4.9. It would make sense that 10.4.9, incorporating newer AirPort software for managing the connection, would be required to use 802.11n.