The Safari/iTunes update belated controversy

There’s been a lot of gripe, grief and mayhem on the web in the last few days regarding Apple’s bundling of the new Safari 3.1 release with updates to their iTunes software (that is installed on millions of MS-Windows computers thanks to the iPod).

This would have come as more of a surprise for me if I wouldn’t have been using Safari 3 on MS-Windows (although not as my main browser) for the last 6 month approximately.

As is very evident Apple’s Safari product page, Apple considers Safari to be the best browser in the world:

safari-best-browser
(1)

As such it would seem perfectly fine for them to offer this great software to the world, or specifically to their iTunes installed user base, through the easiest way possible – the Apple software update feature. Microsoft have done exactly the same with Internet Explorer 7, and worse – Internet Explorer 7 is labeled as a critical security update for MS-Windows XP SP2 users even though it offers very little in the way of extra security over Internet Explorer 6 (the main addition I think is the phishing filter, which alternatives are also available freely for Internet Explorer 6 through Microsoft’s “Windows Market” web site).

So slamming Apple over pushing Safari while Microsoft gets a free pass due to “improving security of web users” seems rather hypocritical to me (maybe also because I want IE6 to die a horrible horrible death and I don’t care if its killed by IE7 or Safari). My main gripe with Apple isn’t about pushing Safari to iTunes users, but the other way around!

As I’ve mentioned above, I’ve been using Safari for quite a while now (on MS-Windows only, which I don’t do much at all so its not like I’m using it a lot, but still), ever since it was deep in Beta. From the start it came bundled with Apple’s software update which was great because that way I get notifications when new betas and finally the 3.0 stable release of Safari came out. And from the start, every time you start Apple software update, you get something like this:
apple pushes iTunes to Safari users

Yes – Apple are pushing iTunes on people who are using Safari. <Sarcastic> I wonder how come that didn’t make the news (and old news at that). </Sarcastic>.

I don’t consider bundling Safari with iTunes such a big problem – many other vendors are bundling completely unrelated software products, usually not even their own, with their MS-Windows software products – Yahoo!’s and Google’s browser toolbars are bundled with virtually any free (gratis) application you download from the internet, so again no news here. iTunes is a huge application and Safari is rather light and most people probably won’t even notice that it is on their computer – again, something which can’t be said for Internet Explorer 7.

But people who install Safari are probably very much aware of Apple’s products and have probably specifically chosen not to download and install the 65MB iTunes monster on their computer and pushing it on them through software update is rather sneaky. Not to mention that software update doesn’t appear to get the hint – if you uncheck “iTunes” in its software selection dialog, then next time it pops up it will still offer iTunes as a default install. It also pops up for any update to iTunes, even though I don’t have it installed and no Safari udpate is available. At least a couple of times I installed iTunes by mistake that way when I was working on someone else’s computer and Apple’s software update surprised me with the above dialog – at first I thought that if it offers an iTunes update then it must mean that there’s iTunes installed. Even Microsoft’s update is better behaving – it has a “and don’t bother me again” check box that people can use to disable these insistent notifications.

I think Apple can solve this issue easily by having an “additional software offers” section in software update, with all “updates” to non-installed software relegated to that section, and not installing stuff from that section without the user specifically choosing them. It will still getting them better exposure to Safari with the iTunes fan base and won’t get them all the negative publicity that they got from this move.


  1. and I’m not going to criticize this bombastic title for now []

One Response to “The Safari/iTunes update belated controversy”

  1. Eran:

    I also hate the deal with freeware that offer annoying added software like toolbars and stuff.

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