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A few days ago, Ed Bott reported that Apple (s aapl) was “up to its old tricks,” pushing unwanted software onto the PCs of unsuspecting Windows users everywhere. As you might expect, it caused something of a storm in a teacup, with Windows enthusiasts jumping on the Apple Bashing Bandwagon.
Now, as anyone who reads the tech-press will confirm, Ed is a Windows man through-and-through, and, although he occasionally appears to pay lip-service to Apple’s Mac OS X, he’s never slow to criticise the boys and girls in Cupertino.
So it should come as no surprise when I tell you that Ed happily spent about 700 words complaining bitterly and, at the end, throwing in a (somewhat unrelated) note of dissatisfaction with the size of the iTunes 9 installer.
Before I continue, and, at the risk of disappointing the more fervent Apple Fanbois among us, I’m not demonizing Ed. He’s an accomplished and fair writer. He’s just as quick to criticise Microsoft when they deserve it. This is not an Ed Bott Bashing article, m’kay?
Here’s what happened. Over the weekend, Apple released an update to its “Apple Software Update” utility on Windows. As well as QuickTime and iTunes updates (which were automatically selected), the Updater listed Safari (not pre-selected) and, at the top of the list, “iPhone Configuration Utility” (pre-selected).
Any Windows users accustomed to simply hitting “Install” would have downloaded software they will, in all likelihood, never need.
According to Greg Keizer at Computerworld, Apple removed the software from the update utility later that day.
It’s sad to see Ed Bott so readily waving virtual fists in the air, though it’s entirely understandable. In 2008, Apple used the same Software Update method to push its Safari browser out to PC users who had likely never even heard of it before. Those actions caused Mozilla CEO John Lily to accuse Apple of “bad practice” and behavior that “…ultimately undermines the safety of the Internet.” But, all those amateur-dramatics aside, it’s probably safe to say that most of those PC users who mindlessly clicked “Install” at that time have still, to this day, never even booted Safari. Not once.
I suspect the inclusion of the iPhone Configuration Utility was a simple mistake. After all, Apple has nothing to gain by installing the iPhone Configuration Utility software on ordinary end-user’s PCs. At first blush it seems Apple has much more to gain getting Windows users to move over to Safari, but last year’s aggressive Safari push hasn’t made too much of a dent in browser-share over on Microsoft’s dominant Windows platform.
With this in mind, it’s not so clever insisting Apple is being intentionally ‘sneaky’ or ‘tricky.’ A touch careless, perhaps, but none of this cloak-and-dagger stuff, please. In this case, I don’t think Apple is doing anything even approaching interesting.
To his credit, Ed updated his article with a short sentence reflecting Apple’s quick actions changing the Updater contents, though he still took a swipe at the pre-selected iTunes and QuickTime items. There’s just no pleasing some people.