This excerpt taken from the VMW 10-K filed Feb 26, 2009.
Capitalized Software Development Costs
Costs related to R&D are generally charged to expense as incurred. Capitalization of material development costs of software to be sold, leased, or otherwise marketed are subject to capitalization beginning when our products technological feasibility has been established, which is at the earlier of completion of a detailed product design or a working model, and ending when the product is available for general release, in accordance with the provisions of Financial Accounting Standard No. 86, Accounting for the Costs of Computer Software to be Sold, Leased, or Otherwise Marketed (FAS No. 86). Judgment is required in determining when
technological feasibility of a product is established. Changes in judgment as to when technological feasibility is established, or changes in our business, including our go-to-market strategy, would likely materially impact the amount of costs capitalized. For example, if the length of time between technological feasibility and general availability is less in the future, the amount of costs capitalized would likely decrease. In addition, our R&D expenses and amounts capitalized as software development costs may not be comparable to our peer companies due to differences in judgment as to when a detailed product design or a working model has been completed or differences in judgment regarding when the product is available for general release. FAS No. 86 requires annual amortization expense of capitalized software development costs to be the greater of the amounts computed using the ratio of current gross revenue to a products total current and anticipated revenues, or the straight-line method over the products remaining estimated economic life. To date, we have amortized these costs using the straight-line method as it is the greater of the two amounts. The ongoing assessment of the recoverability of these costs requires considerable judgment by management with respect to certain external factors such as anticipated future revenue, estimated economic life, and changes in software and hardware technologies. Changes in the periods over which we actually generate revenues or the amounts of revenues generated could result in materially different amounts of amortization.
Amounts capitalized under FAS No. 86 are primarily related to salaries and stock-based compensation of our employees. Because of the significant judgment necessary in applying FAS No. 86, our internal measurements of performance, including our cash bonus programs, are based on results excluding the net effect of amounts capitalized and amortized pursuant to FAS No. 86.