Apple seems set to charge a $5 tax for Mac users wanting to unlock 802.11n capabilities on their Macs.

If you own a recently released Intel Core 2 Duo-powered Mac, then it's already kitted out with what it needs to run new WiFi standard 802.11n — well, except for the software.

Apple last week released its latest AirPort Extreme Base Station. This supports 802.11a/ b/g and n wireless networking and lets you host a shared storage disc or printer.

802.11n offers five times the performance and twice the range of the last-generation of AirPort, but Macs need to be enabled in order to access the standard (which hasn't yet been ratified).

If you buy a new AirPort Extreme Base Station (£119), Apple is supplying the enabling software on a CD; otherwise (according to Apple Insider), Mac users will have to pay to download the software.

While a tenuous reason was given in the report (which seems to describe any kind of system upgrade as going beyond the spirit of some US act), the move (if true) means Mac users will be forced to hand over $5 if they want to use their Macs with third-party 802.11n equipment.

802.11n compatible Macs include:

- iMac with Intel Core 2 Duo processors (excluding the 17-inch, 1.83GHz iMac)
- MacBook with Intel Core 2 Duo
- MacBook Pro with Intel Core 2 Duo
- Mac Pro with AirPort Extreme card option