Federal regulators approved changes to accounting rules Sept. 23 that in the short term will make sales and profits seem higher at technology companies selling certain gadgets that blend hardware and software, reports the Associated Press. Under the old rules, companies like Apple Inc. had to spread revenue from the sale of a smart phone over two years, the estimated useful life of the device. Existing accounting rules require many software companies to divide up sales over the length of licensing contracts; until now, companies with hybrid hardware-software products were also guided by those standards. The Financial Accounting Standards Board’s latest changes mean that Apple, plus other smart-phone makers, telecommunications equipment makers, semiconductor equipment manufacturers, and a host of others, will be subject to a less onerous accounting standard. The new rules, for instance, will let Apple "unbundle" iPhone hardware from its software and report the hardware sales up front. That makes it easier for investors to see how Apple did in any given period. The changes to the accounting rules go into effect in the middle of next year, though companies can put them into use immediately. The decision also puts U.S. companies on equal footing with overseas competitors, which already follow such accounting rules…

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