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Why does Apple hate iPod Touch owners?

Apple's announcement that iPod Touch owners would have to pay for an upgrade that iPhone users get for free wasn't exactly met with enthusiasm at Macworld 2008. That's hardly surprising, though ...

iPod Touch
iPod Touch

commentary At the keynote of the Macworld conference in San Francisco this week, Steve Jobs announced that a number of new and existing features present in the iPhone would be made available to owners of the very similar iPod Touch.

Specifically, the Mail, Maps, Stocks, Notes and Weather applications will be available to Aussies as a software download for the iPod Touch from tomorrow, according to Apple Australia representatives.

Predictably -- and as happens often at Macworld keynotes -- the crowd went wild. Then he announced the price point -- US$20 (AU$24.99 according to Apple Australia representatives) ... and the crowd went mild. Nobody was quite brave enough to boo outright, but it was pretty clear that a thousand or so brains were all thinking the same thing -- "they want HOW much"?

Of the new features -- and especially for a market like Australia, where the iPhone is yet to make an official appearance -- Mail is definitely the killer application, turning what was a rather nifty music player/Web browser into more of a productivity tool, especially if you live in a Wi-Fi saturated world.

As an aside, while I've not been able to grab a hacked iPhone to test it, it's a pretty safe bet that the new update for iPhone users will once again lead to bricked iPhones if you've opted to unlock the firmware previously.

Now, it's not unusual for a company to charge for software -- in fact, there's a whole economy based around it -- but the iPod Touch software "upgrade" leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Yes, the features are nice, and desirable, and the cost isn't excessively high; it's not as thought they're charging Adobe-level prices for the new applications.

Where it sticks in the craw, however, is in the fact that the new features that have come across from the iPhone can be had, here and now, by iPhone users for the grand price of free.

Why, then, are they free for iPhone but not iPod Touch? Sure, the iPhone users have paid a little more for their device -- and once the contract period is factored in, that figure becomes "a lot more" -- but at the same time, they've also got a much more capable device, which is exactly what more money should buy you.

At the lower end, Apple's already got your money for the Touch, and at least for Australian users, you can't legitimately buy the iPhone to get the "free" features. I doubt that the cost will deter many users from upgrading -- it's not at onerous levels, really -- but at the same time, it's such a nominal fee that one has to wonder if the goodwill lost by charging for it is equal to the revenue generated. My gut feel is that the answer to that question is "no".

Alex Kidman travelled to Macworld as a guest of Apple.

What do you think? Should Apple give the update to all users or charge all users? Have your say below!