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Apple Pushes Software Onto PCs Again…But Not for Long

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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?

Apple Software Update - iPhone CU

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.

12 Responses to “Apple Pushes Software Onto PCs Again…But Not for Long”

  1. >Mozilla CEO John Lily warning about trojan actions by licensed software

    Are you insane?

    >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.

    Nope, just talking out of your ass.

  2. I just downloaded that update and it has screwed up a dll in my Windows XP system software. Getting errors whenever starting my computer now. Reading other posts of the same issue. I’m normally a strong Apple supporter but it seems they never tested their latest update properly.

  3. Personally I’ve always been asked if I want to update Apple software on my Windows PC. I’m Windows through and through, but Microsoft are far cheekier with hidden updates unless you want to leave gaping holes in your security! Internet Explorer has become failry notorious!

  4. Uh, why wouldn’t QuickTime be preselected with iTunes? You sort of need QuickTime in order to run iTunes on a PC….and upgrading iTunes seems like a no brainer.

  5. You mean to tell me that this is because an item was already checked?

    You mean to tell me that there are users out there who don’t CHECK TO SEE WHAT’S BEING INSTALLED ON THEIR COMPUTERS? It’s their own fault, the idiots.

    Talk about trolling for page views; the both of you. I’d say it’s the most unnewsworthy story I’ve ever seen, actually.

  6. From my recollection the auto checked items are typically items you already have installed on your system. Hence in most cases why iTunes and/or Quicktime are selected.

    The whole issue of the IPCU being pre selected, is a bit odd. But as noted, it was fixed later that day. I think some people need to come down. Its like they instantly spark when they see something and don’t take the time to see if maybe it was an error and maybe real soon it will be fixed. Then report on it. But no, too many people in this world, especially Ed, are just reactors.

  7. Personal Ed Bott attacks aside, I don’t think the justification of “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.” is even remotely valid. Whether or not they’ve used the software is completely irrelevant. I don’t think this is a fault with Apple at all, I fault Apple with the fact that they’ve bought into a faulty software delivery model. These automatic updates are thorns in many computer users sides. They take up valuable system/network resources unnecessarily. Why couldn’t they just include a simple check box on the dialog that says “don’t automatically check for updates”? One of the most painful Windows experiences there is is the Windows Updater. But, they key here is that you can opt out. Why can’t you do that will the Apple Software Updater? Furthermore, I specifically don’t want Safari on my system. Why must it always ask me if I do? Kind of spammy if you ask me.

    So, Apple didn’t invent this annoying model, but they bought into it, and I expect better.

  8. TheMacAdvocate

    Ed Bott. Yawn. Aside from his obvious shilling (“fair”? that’s some journalistic courtesy you’re showing there)‚ as I pointed out in the comments of that article‚ if you don’t want to get spammed by ZDNet‚ you have to uncheck 3 boxes when you register to leave comments on the site.

    Imagine my surprise that even after unchecking them all‚ they’re still spamming me. I found out that ZDNet only allows you to uncheck all email from ZDNet after you fill in all personal information about you (registration with ZDNet only requires you to generate a user‚ password and supply an email). I’d rather unregister each email manually and report as spam to Google than supply them with all of my information‚ especially considering how they’ve handled what they have.

    For Ed Bott to call out ANYONE for nefarious slip tactics would be hilarious if it wasn’t so bald-faced hypocritical.

  9. Well, there’s just no pleasing Ed Bott, anyway.

    I’m not going to disagree with your kind assessment of him, but the fact of the matter is that he’s an overall negative person who is quick to point fingers and EXTREMELY slow to praise anything, particularly anything Apple.

    If I want to read someone who enjoys complaining endlessly with little good to say about the world, I’ll write a letter to my grandpa. :)