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The Apple bites back
It doesn't make sense to pay $14.40 to fix something Apple got wrong in the first place.
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BY NOW, we have all heard about the cool features of the new iPhone 3G S, which runs on the latest iPhone 3.0 operating system (OS).

There is, for example, voice control, which lets you call your contacts simply by saying their name aloud, and digital compass, which gives the device a sense of direction so you can orientate maps to where you are facing.

What is less known, however, is that version 3.0 is also patching up 46 security holes that are present in the older version of the OS. These include buffer and memory overflows, opening malicious PDF files, visiting malicious websites and accessing malicious Exchange mail servers (go to support.apple.com/kb/ HT3639 for full list).

This comes as a surprise to me because Apple fans have always lambasted Windows PCs and the Internet Explorer browser for not being secure.

Mac fans have boasted that you don't have to worry about viruses with Mac computers.

Well, it looks like the iPhone is just as vulnerable, doesn't it?

The security gaps also do not lend credence to the argument that there are hardly any viruses for the Mac simply because its market share is too small - about 4 per cent worldwide - for hackers set on widespread mayhem to bother about.

My beef is not with the gaps - codes are always far from perfect.

Rather, my displeasure is about the unequal treatment: Whereas iPhone users will get version 3.0 as a free update, iPod Touch users, like me, will have to pay US$9.90 (S$14.40) for it.

Apple's rationale for this is hard to comprehend.

It "recognises", it says, revenue and the cost of goods sold for iPhone and Apple TV over their shelf lives.

For the iPod Touch and Mac computers, the accounting for the sale is done instantly.

So, for iPhone and Apple TV, significant upgrades are free but for the latter group, users must pay.

The idea of paying for OS upgrades is not new to Apple.

It has charged for every version upgrade of Mac OS X since the OS was launch in 2001.

Most Mac users pay for the upgrades. According to CEO Steve Jobs, when he announced version 5 of the Mac OS X called Leopard in 2007, two thirds of users then were already on the latest version called Tiger.

I am sure Microsoft must be eyeing Apple's conversion success with envy.

Hell would break loose if the Redmond-based software giant tried to charge for a service pack upgrade to XP or Windows Vista.

Apple's explanation, of course, is that every new version of OS X is like a new operating system - much like moving from XP to Vista.

Apple, however, needs to work harder to convince me to pay for iPod Touch upgrades.

If you choose to stay on an older version of Mac OS X like Tiger, you still get free patches throughout the life cycle of the product.

So if I do not want the new OS 3.0 features and just want to be protected against potential security hacks when I surf, should I not get the updates for free?

Apple should offer two options.

One for iPod Touch users who want the new features and patches and will pay for it.

Another for those who want only the protection patches for free but not the features.

I mean, why should I be forced to pay to fix something that was broken - in 46 parts - from the start?

ginlee@sph.com.sg


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