This excerpt taken from the AAPL 10-K filed Jan 25, 2010.
Retrospective Adoption of New Accounting Principles
In September 2009, the FASB amended the accounting standards related to revenue recognition for arrangements with multiple deliverables and arrangements that include software elements (new accounting principles). The Company adopted the new accounting principles on a retrospective basis during the first quarter of 2010.
Under the historical accounting principles, the Company was required to account for sales of both iPhone and Apple TV using subscription accounting because the Company indicated it might from time-to-time provide future unspecified software upgrades and features for those products free of charge. Under subscription accounting, revenue and associated product cost of sales for iPhone and Apple TV were deferred at the time of sale and recognized on a straight-line basis over each products estimated economic life. This resulted in the deferral of significant amounts of revenue and cost of sales related to iPhone and Apple TV.
The new accounting principles generally require the Company to account for the sale of both iPhone and Apple TV as two deliverables. The first deliverable is the hardware and software essential to the functionality of the hardware device delivered at the time of sale, and the second deliverable is the right included with the purchase of iPhone and Apple TV to receive on a when-and-if-available basis future unspecified software upgrades and features relating to the products essential software. The new accounting principles result in the recognition of substantially all of the revenue and product costs from the sales of iPhone and Apple TV at the time of sale. Additionally, the Company is required to estimate a standalone selling price for the unspecified software upgrade rights included with the sale of iPhone and Apple TV and recognizes that amount ratably over the 24-month estimated life of the related hardware device.
The financial statements and notes to the financial statements presented herein have been adjusted to reflect the retrospective adoption of the new accounting principles. Refer to the Explanatory Note immediately preceding Part II, Item 6 and Note 2, Retrospective Adoption of New Accounting Principles in this Form 10-K for additional information on the impact of adoption.