When the iPod touch was released in September 2007, many people found the device to be unnecessarily crippled compared to its more mobile cousin, the iPhone. Applications such as Google maps, native mail, weather, notes, and stocks were all absent from the iPod Touch at it’s release, leading many to speculate that Apple was intentionally crippling the device to sell more iPhones. Clever users eventually found a way to jailbreak the iPod Touch just like the iPhone, and add these applications back into the device, but with each new firmware release Apple managed to undo all the hacks.
Enter Macworld 2008, and Apple has finally released the missing applications for the iPod Touch, but theres a catch: Apple wants $20 from current owners for these programs. New iPod Touch customers will get these applications free, and of course iPhones have had them since birth. So why the charge? Various explanations have been tossed around so far. An obvious comparison can be made to the 802.11n enabler released last year which Apple charged users $1.99 for. This charge for new functionality was explained as an accounting requirement, and repeatedly criticized by everyone from Apple haters to mainstream news.
Apple may also be using this as an opportunity to test out iTunes applications sales for the upcoming SDK release. Although they already do sell iPod games this way, this may be a way to test the waters to see how willing people are to pay for applications. With the release of the SDK, Apple will also be entering into a middleman situation in its sale of applications for the iPhone and iPod touch. It has been reported that developers will submit source code for their apps to Apple, who will then compile it and sign the code so the iPhone and iPod Touch will run the application. All in all this is a fair amount of complexity that probably will need to be tested out on a large scale before going public, exactly the sort of situation the new iTouch applications release provides.
There is no question that many iPod Touch users are miffed at Apple for charging $20 for applications that iPhone users have had since the beginning, so why the $20 figure and not $2.99? It could be that Apple spent significant time developing these applications for use specifically on the iPod touch and wants some compensation for their work. It could also be the case that users may see the $20 figure and assign more value to these applications, whereas a $1.99 figure may seem insulting, why charge at all if its only $1.99?
Apple will certainly feel some criticism over this decision, but application sales in general will certainly be a success on iTunes.