Thank you Sarbanes-Oxley!

It appears that Sarbanes- Oxley is having some more unintended side-effects. This time, you'll be paying $5 for 802.11n to be enabled on your Core 2 iMac, MacBook, MacBook Pro and Mac Pro, because this was not a stated feature of the system before it shipped and therefore would need to be accounted for. That's right, adding features via software appears to be something else that Sarbanes-Oxley is here to deny you the ability to do.

I first heard of this when talking to an Apple employee, but quickly saw it reflected elsewhere on the net in the last week. Articles, such as Is Sarbanes-Oxley forcing Apple to Charge you to upgrade your WiFi? go into some of the problem, but it's basically a revenue recognition problem.

It goes like this: because of bad actors in the corporate world recognizing revenue for products not yet delivered, the act contains strict requirements that you must recognize revenue when a product is delivered. So, Apple delivers you an 802.11n-capable Core2 iMac (for example) in November. In January, they enable the 802.11n feature. The feature was, therefore, delivered in January. The problem is that Apple delivered you a feature in January that you paid for in November--they recognized revenue for something that they didn't deliver on. Now, obviously, the law doesn't state that explicitly with examples, but what Sarbanes-Oxley did do is tighten the interpretations that publicly traded companies can use when interpreting the accounting standards. In other words, Apple could choose to interpret this as just giving a feature away in 2007 to keep customers happy, but Apple doesn't get to decide how that's handled. Under SOX, it's either going to be a revenue recognition problem, or possibly seen as an advertising or marketing expense to keep customers happy, and Apple, the board, and the corporate executives may face criminal penalties or fines if they guess wrong.