Too Much Safari 3.1 Nonsense

My Tuesday Microsoft Watch post, “Apple’s Windows Invasion” stirred up ridiculous controversy this week. I simply don’t understand the fuss. OK, so Apple Software Update offers up Safari 3.1. Big deal.

The controversy started rather innocently. On Tuesday morning, I took out my daughter’s pink VAIO laptop, which I will soon post for sale on Craiglist. She has returned to using her MacBook purchased on launch day, May 16, 2006. I upgraded the memory to 2GB and swapped the 60GB hard drive for a 250GB replacement, purchased from Mac specialist Crywolf. She’s fed up with Windows Vista, and I’m close to the same emotional state.

I used the VAIO to check for Windows Vista Service Pack 1, which wasn’t available as announced on either the Microsoft Download Center or Windows Update. I left the computer running while writing a blog post. Later, I returned to find a curious open window. Apple Software Update had popped up with the option to download Safari 3.1. I hadn’t recalled seeing Safari on the computer (it wasn’t there), so I blogged the find: Apple was using its updater to distribute new software to Windows users.

Funny, I didn’t think much about it. If anything, Apple had done something quite clever. I described the updater as a “Trojan horse,” laid out good reasons for the strategy and concluded with: “Apple is wisely leveraging its limited resources.”

For reasons I won’t even guess, the post stirred up debate that reached crescendo today. There is much criticism of Apple’s tactic, which I find absolutely laughable. Please—get a life!

John Gruber linked to fascinating Paul Mison post “A Translation of ‘Apple’s Windows Invasion.'” Paul goes through my Microsoft Watch post, paragraph by paragraph. I found his response to be quite amusing, and that’s meant as a compliment.

Paul writes:

I have to say, I’m with Mison. I don’t understand the supposed outrage over Apple’s Software Update app for Windows offering to install Safari 3.1. Seems par for the course on Windows, and even on Mac OS X Software Update asks me if I want to install apps I don’t use.

He’s not alone. This afternoon, I emailed John: “I don’t understand the outrage, either. What outrage?…Microsoft pushes Silverlight and all kinds of stuff down through Windows Update, and from a monopoly position. Apple should use its software updater this way.”

Right before I found John’s post, I stumbled upon one from another John, as in Lilly, Mozilla’s CEO. He writes:

What Apple is doing now with their Apple Software Update on Windows is wrong. It undermines the trust relationship great companies have with their customers, and that’s bad—not just for Apple, but for the security of the whole Web.

It’s wrong because it undermines the trust that we’re all trying to build with users. Because it means that an update isn’t just an update, but is maybe something more. Because it ultimately undermines the safety of users on the web by eroding that relationship. It’s a bad practice and should stop.

I couldn’t disagree more, and I wrote the post that started this controversy. John Lilly doesn’t get his facts quite right. Apple includes the updater with iTunes, but it’s optional. He writes: “Anyone who uses iTunes on Windows has Apple Software Update installed on their machines.”

I agree that there is some confusion about Safari 3.1 being offered from a software updater. But there is a installation process that’s fairly clear. I would agree with John Lilly about trust if Apple installed Safari without asking first. Geez, Microsoft offers up all kinds of software through Windows Update.

Jesper Johansson wrote the most perplexing commentary that I saw. His post: “Help us Nellie! Please, help us!” Nellie refers to Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for Competition.

Jesper calls Apple’s music player success a “de-facto monopoly.” [Apple] “is busily working on monopolies in the music software and downloads markets and is behaving monopolistically in the PC market as well.”

What Jesper writes is so outrageously ridiculous, he must be being facetious:

Apple has now started ‘leveraging’ (a synonym for abuse) those monopolies to force people to use its web browser…This astonishing abuse of power threatens to destabilize the software market worldwide, thwart choice, and hamper innovation. What would happen if Apple is actually successful in giving away lots of copies of its free browser?

If Jesper is serious, he needs a life. If he’s being sarcastic, I say good writing.

Bottom line: I see nothing overtly wrong in Apple’s software distribution tactic. It’s sheer brilliance the way Apple is co-opting Microsoft’s monopoly product. Every developer shipping updaters should follow Apple’s approach. Are you listening Adobe?