The Apple Tax that increases the price of your iPod accessories


Apple is evil and wants to kick sand in your face at the beach. Well, no, it doesn’t, but there’s an article in Popular Mechanics this month by Boing Boing Gadgets‘ Joel Johnson—hi, Joel!—that examines the impact that a little known security chip has had on the iPod accessory market.

The chip, sinisterly referred to as the “auth chip,” prevents third-parties from making certain iPod accessories without first getting a license from Apple. No Apple license (to unlock the key), no worky. As you might expect, obtaining a license costs money (which varies from accessory type to accessory type), and the costs are passed onto you.

An Apple tax, if you will.

Numerous third-party manufacturers told PM that, yes, their gadgets would be cheaper if they didn’t have to pay the Apple tax, but they don’t necessarily mind. Play ball with Apple and it rewards you with shelf space at the Apple Store. Then the profits roll in. ::rubs hands like Mr. Burns::

Apple does this to ensure that iPod accessories work flawlessly with the iPod; you don’t want cheap, knock-off accessories flooding the market because then you (Apple) look bad. “Why doesn’t Gadget A work with my iPod? I might as well get a Zune!” Apple doesn’t want that to happen.

All of this gives us a choice: do you want to pay more to ensure that your iPod accessories “just work,” or are you willing to take a chance and buy something without Apple’s blessing that may not work as well as you hoped it would?

Well, “choice” is a poorly chosen word here, since it’s not like Apple is going to phase out the auth chip. Why should it forego all that license revenue, especially when it keeps everything in Apple Land running smoothly?