Apple Charges Fee for Hardware You Already Have

by Devanshu Mehta Feb 01, 2007

Little did you know that for many months now, you have harbored a monster inside your Mac. Ignorantly, you thought that your Mac could do a little 802.11g, maybe even some 802.11a or b.

Well, you were wrong. It can do 802.11n. And since n comes after g, it’s got to be better, right?

Earlier this year at MacWorld, Steve Jobs revealed to the unsuspecting masses that many Intel Macs shipped with 802.11n chips, but they were disabled. They were like an appendix, a tail-bone, or a nictitating membrane—interesting to geeks of the field, but totally useless. Until now.

Now, for the low, low price of $1.99 Apple will sell you software to enable a chip that they already sold you. I can see you reaching for your wallet now. “Pay for something I already bought? Now that sounds like fun!” I hear you say.

So which of you lucky Mac-ers will have the privilege of making the g to n transition? Well, if you bought a Mac recently with an Intel Core 2 Duo—as long as it was not the 17” 1.83GHz iMac—you may fork over $1.99 for the right to sneer at those lowly 802.11g users. Apple also started selling a new AirPort Extreme Base Station with 802.11n, so you actually can get *one* other device to speak your new cool wireless language.

So Why Do I Care?
Personally, I don’t. I still have a Powerbook, and so am stuck in g-ville for a while. Until the Book of Jobs reveals that the Powerbooks had 802.11zz in them all along and a blue moon rises above Cupertino.

Of course, a lot of you readers out there actually might care—you did recently find yourself at the upper echelons of coolness with Intel Core 2 Duo MacBook Pros and the like. Well, now you can say you have Intel Core 2 Duo 802.11n MacBook Pros and see the Vista-ridden masses tremble. And this is why you should care:

Over the years IEEE started many 802.11 wireless standards tracks, each with different goals. In January ‘04, they started working on 802.11n with an idea of wider ranges and higher data rates. After 3 years of work, the standard is approaching wide use and acceptance, though it is still in the draft stage. From the average user’s perspective, the things to note are the following:

  • Up to 540 Mbps data rates (up from 54 Mbps for 802.11g)
  • 802.11a/b/g networks can connect seamlessly with 802.11n networks
  • The range is much wider than 802.11g

Here is some more information from Apple.

I’m sure you’re wondering why Apple chooses to charge for turning this feature on, considering the hardware is already part of your Mac. They claim it is in order to comply with the much feared Sarbanes Oxley accounting laws, but that still does not explain why they had it disabled in the first place. If Mr. Paul Sarbanes or Mr. Michael Oxley are Mac users, they cannot be too proud that their names are being used to justify Apple making free money, seeing that many of their laws were established to stop practices of that nature in the first place. If they had to charge money, it could have been a penny. And the least they could do is give it away with the purchase of any other item from the Apple store.


  • Glad to read one of your articles again Mr. Mehta and thanks for the information on 802.11n, because up until now I had no idea what the differences were.

    Aaron Wright had this to say on Feb 01, 2007 Posts: 104
  • “Apple Charges Fee for Hardware You Already Have”

    Nice flaimbait headline.  But Apple isn’t charging for hardware—they’re charging for software.  And software that didn’t exist when you bought your MacBook.  Software that was developed since then at Apple’s expense.

    I don’t understand people who think that all software updates forever should be free.  Apple didn’t advertise or promise “n” compatibility when they shipped the hardware, so if I had one of these machines I’d feel insanely grateful there was a $2 way to get 5x the performance through a software upgrade.

    Guess what?  MacOS X 10.4 improves the performance you get from your CPU over 10.3.  Does that mean it should be free?

    booga had this to say on Feb 01, 2007 Posts: 19
  • @booga, this is not a software update. The Intel Core2Duo Macs already have a chip that is capable of 802.11n. It is disabled. This software enables it. There is no expense to Apple for doing this other than credit card transactions and minor overhead; overhead that they created for themselves by disabling it in the first place.

    Devanshu Mehta had this to say on Feb 01, 2007 Posts: 108
  • Yea, imagine that. This spring, they expect me to upgrade my Mac hardware to something called Leopard. What the *#^^()! Pay how much? For a Mac I already have, I expect free updates for life. Gimme a break Apple.

    veggiedude had this to say on Feb 01, 2007 Posts: 6
  • @veggiedude- this is *not* a software update. It just enables hardware you already have.

    Devanshu Mehta had this to say on Feb 01, 2007 Posts: 108
  • I suspect apple will likely not make anything from the enabler.
    I bet the 1.99 is priced very close to the per transaction costs of accepting credit cards online.  Maybe Apple has enough clout with itunes transactions to squeeze the credit card cos on transaction fees but I suspect that there is really no margin for profit here simply a cover of expences that will be incurred to adhere to accounting. Should they just take their lumps and lose the small amount of money selling the software for a penny (or break the accounting rules and not lose anything)? The answer is YES especially since the only hardware that can use the enaber is all under warranty (at most a few months old) and infact many could even have been sold after it was generally known that there were n cards in them (I bought a macbookpro last week knowing that is was n ready).
    Just my 2 cents! note not given to adhere to accounting practices!

    xian had this to say on Feb 01, 2007 Posts: 1
  • Up to 540 Mbps data rates…

    Ha! ha! ha! When pigs actually grow wings and fly then 11n will reach that marketing number. wink

    And oh, welcome back Dev from your sabbatical.

    ...for the low, low price of $1.99 Apple will sell you software to enable a chip that they already sold you

    Well, true and false. True in that Apple is selling the firmware update (this is important) for $1.99. False that this “functionality” has not been purchased by the Core 2 Duo customers. They bought a Mac with an Airport Extreme a/b/g. The 11a is there, mind you. I use it all the time.

    The 11n is “disabled” by the firmware awaiting ratification of Draft 1.1. The “software” is a firmware update to update the 11n “play nice” algorithms as stated Draft 1.1 and not merely a on/off switch simplicity.

    As you stated, Apple has already claimed this “value” in their accounting books without any compensation from the customers.

    I am not defending SarBox or Apple in this. I wish they just go ahead and charge each $1.99 against their income this quarter. That can’t hurt their bazillion profits.

    For the few million$ that they will generate (there are about several million Core 2 Duo Macs out there now) from this, how about the time and expense collecting them? I doubt all Core 2 Duo owners will upgrade in a short time.

    Robomac had this to say on Feb 01, 2007 Posts: 846
  • @Robotech- you’ve laid it out quite well, and I wasn’t aware of the nuances of the update.

    I still think there were better ways of handling this- including giving the software away for free (or a penny) with any purchase (, itunes), so you could get more value out of your purchase. That is, instead of paying $2 for the update, you can buy something you actually need and get it for “free”.

    Devanshu Mehta had this to say on Feb 01, 2007 Posts: 108
  • Apple also disabled screen spanning on non-pro macs not so long ago, the idea being to devalue them in comparison to the power mac/book lines.  I think it pretty lame personally. 

    If Microsoft/Dell/HP did this kind of thing there would be outrage.

    della had this to say on Feb 01, 2007 Posts: 3
  • Uh, Microsoft already does this. When you buy Vista Home Basic or Vista Home Premium, you get all the Vista Ultimate parts installed, too - but those Ultimate features are disabled.

    Give Microsoft your credit card and voila, your Home Basic system is magically upgraded to Ultimate. I don’t see the “outrage” over this disabling of features. In fact, the Home Basic box mentions nothing about all the Ultimate features that are right on the install disks, hundreds of megabytes of features that are installed silently right next to all the Home Basic parts, but are hidden and deactivated until you pay up.

    In fact, the outrage of the 802.11n upgrade is entirely manufactured. If that reality is too bitter for you, it’s your loss. It’s laughable that anyone thinks Apple is out to make a buck by charging $2.00 for a software download that isn’t keyed and can be freely shared, one that even allows multiple installs via its EULA. Totally laughable because most of you $2 whiners probably have already located free copies of the update software anyway. If Apple really wanted to make money, they would’ve wrapped it with iTunes DRM or something.

    So go ahead and laugh at SOX, but guess what? Apple still has both the feds and the CA attorney general breathing down their necks over ACCOUNTING issues. A-C-C-O-U-N-T-I-N-G. You have many members of the media doing their best to inflate the options backdating into Enron-like proportions just for the satisfaction of “teaching Jobs some humility.”

    Tell me if it requires a Ph.d to not be as cautious as possible while dozens of governments accountants and lawyers are going through every inch of your books.

    Or maybe you’re the type you likes to deposit your gambling earnings (unreported) into your checking account while the IRS is performing a full audit on you, cause your Blackjack winnings “isn’t really income and the IRS would be dumb to think so.”

    So if you’re offended by my heavy sarcasm, sorry, but I’m frankly tired of all the incessant, inconsequential whining coming from a small group of high-falutin’ Mac users. You think paying $2.00 for a feature that enables hardware capability that was never previously advertised is a rip-off? Fine. Choose to be unhappy and live in your unhappy world. Convince yourself that the hardware in your C2D Mac doesn’t have 802.11n capability. Then head over to Amazon and plop down $82 for an pre-N ExpressCard to make you feel like you’re not being ripped off

    Now you have pre-802.11n hardware and you’re out $82 now, but even better, no one pulled the wool over your eyes ! SOOOO much better.

    Frankly, with all this whining, Apple should have shipped all Core2 Duo Macs with just straight 802.11b/g hardware, and if you wanted 802.11n, they should have said you can just go ahead and get yourself a new Mac (which is why owners of Airport Express and Aiport Extreme will have to do, to get the new draft-N capability in their routers). That surely would have been better than having to read vapid editorials like this.

    BTW, regardless of whether it’s lame or not, Apple didn’t make anyone buy a Mac saying “Well, it has 802.11n, we’ll release an updater later.” Apple said, “This Mac does 802.11b/g” and that’s that.

    Like so many Mac rumors, you may have convinced yourself Apple “promised” something, but like so many rumors, projecting your own unrealistic or baseless wishes tends to bite you in the rear big time. It’s just sad that some people seem to want to be constantly find ways to make the glass 1/2 empty, and laced with vinegar.

    Paul had this to say on Feb 01, 2007 Posts: 31
  • I’m still waiting for the Firmware to enable the second core on my 1.5ghz intel mini, or the firmware update to allow me to up the 64mb of video ram… I’d pay for $2 for that. [pipedream]

    Case in point Paul. It wasn’t advertised as having it. It was shipped silently, keep the customer up to date without even knowing it.

    $2 sucks, but I think it’s free if you purchase the new base station… Which you’d need in order to use it.

    Anyone seen the ULA for it? Is there something in there about copyprotection?

    xwiredtva had this to say on Feb 02, 2007 Posts: 172
  • Did you ever think maybe it wasn’t ready to be released until just now? Maybe the firmware is finally up to par? I have a Core Duo Macbook Pro, and I know if I had the Core 2 Duo and was told sometime after I bought it that it had a hidden feature that I could enable for $2 I would be extremely happy. Would it be better if they didn’t add n support at all?

    I love Apple Matters, and by no means is it just here, but I’m sick of people complaining about everything apple does. EVERYTHING they do gets someone writing a story about how they did it wrong…when in reality there are reasons behind their actions that none of us know(besides them). I trust apple to make the right decisions for us users. But if you don’t like it, there is a cheap PC with your name on it.

    mynameisjesse had this to say on Feb 06, 2007 Posts: 12
  • “there is a cheap PC with your name on it.”

    That’s similar to the “why don’t you move to Canada” rhetoric I hear when I complain about the government of the USA.

    I complain as a paying user and part-time writer- when those two groups of people lose their rights to complain, getting a cheap PC will be the least of my worries.

    Devanshu Mehta had this to say on Feb 07, 2007 Posts: 108
  • You can spend $179 to save that $1.99.  That 11n Mac isn’t going to do you much good without an 11n access point.  And Apple has a deal for you.  It’s their new Airport Extreme.  Supposedly, included with it is the very same $1.99 upgrade software.

    Actually, the features for the device look good on paper: network printing and network storage.  But so far more buyers are unhappy than happy with it, at least the buyers who are posting.

    Chas had this to say on Feb 23, 2007 Posts: 1
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