Apple to Windows Users: Run One, Run All!

The mid- to late-90s seemed to be the heyday of software vendors deciding that if you ran one of their products, you’d want a bunch more as well. In my opinion, it was not Microsoft, but Real, that typified this behavior and annoyed me greatly.

Even when all I wanted was their media player, it seemed I was stuck with their little message center and other crap. Turning it all OFF was a pain in the rectum, and in my opinion should never have been necessary. It made me hate Real, and I’ve yet to install any more than the minimum software of theirs needed.

To a certain extent, this practice lives on in the form of checkboxes that say “Oh, I see you’re installing our utility, do you want me to create an icon for it in 23 different places, and also install six helper apps, and change your browser home page?” You can turn these OFF, but again it’s a pain. Still, since the user initiated the installation, I guess asking them for others that they have to implicitly turn off is not the worst of crimes.

Microsoft continues the practice in some ways by sneaking stuff under the radar with an automatic sustem update (especially a “security” update). They got WGA on systems this way, and also pulled this stunt on Internet Explorer 7.0.

Whatever. Such is the PC world, but Apple doesn’t play that game.

Until now.

Much has been written about how the Apple Software Updater on Windows XP and Vista is now suggesting an “update” to Safari 3.1. This is amazing when you consider it’s doing this for people who were not running the older (beta) version of Safari. How exactly does one “update” what they’re not running?

Sorry, Apple, but I think you’re wrong here. Big time. Perhaps you thought other vendors do it so you can, too. Well, you’re not “other vendors”. At least, your image is not one of being just another vendor, so why act like it?

Or perhaps you thought PC users are used to this kind of stuff, so why not? I’d say even if they are used to it, they’re not used to it from you, and you will not endear yourself to those who already have a dislike for your company by offering new software under the guise of an “update”. I hate this sort of thing and, push come to shove, I think most other people do, too.

Finally, perhaps you figure that savvy people will ignore it, and only those not paying attention will get it installed, maybe use it, and maybe convert to Safari, etc. But this strategy is simply an attempt to take advantage of the unwary (certainly, that’s what Real was doing) and is all the more galling for it.

Yes, I’m aware that some people think Steve Jobs “promised” this. But in my opinion saying you’ll use iTunes to leverage Safari, and using your updater to do the dirty work, is not the same thing. If Apple believes new customers should come from those they can “trick” into installing their software, maybe their stock isn’t such a good buy after all.

[UPDATE:] I’ve posted a second look at this, based on some recent commentary here and elsewhere.

21 thoughts on “Apple to Windows Users: Run One, Run All!

  1. Anonymous123,

    Good thoughts, but I think that makes it more difficult than it needs to be.

    The Updater is already in the field causing “damage” to Apple in terms of PR and user frustration. There’s no time for a component redesign, and none should be needed to address the egregious part of this issue anyway.

    The Updater knows if a previous version of Safari is installed, and has been made to act as follows:

    A) If you have Safari, list an update if a newer version is available and check the box;
    B) If you don’t have Safari, list the latest version and check the box.

    Obviously, option “A” is the behavior you’d expect from an Updater.

    As for option “B”, normally you’d assume Safari wouldn’t be listed at all. But this is where Apple leverages iTunes/Updater on Windows. Instead of not listing the app, it SHOULD continue do so, but just DON’T check the box.

    This would literally make Safari only one checkbox away for the user to install, and it would be so for every update cycle. It’s as easy as Apple can make it while still leaving the user in control.

    The simple act of not checking the box by default would be all that’s needed to satisfy most of the complainers (not all of them, but some will never be happy).

    Yes, they could rename the app and do some other things you suggest, but the first order of business is to remove the perceived deception, continue to provide the opportunity to install Safari, and make it an opt-in. I believe Apple could do this very, very quickly. If it’s more than a trivial change I’d be surprised.

  2. Tom, unfortunately this is typical software development. Apple apparently only has one mechanism to push software onto Windows, namely Apple Software Update. Software update tools are the current trend. People *aren’t* thinking differently.

    The Apple Software Update panel begins with, “New software is available from Apple.” There you go, they are on the right track. However, the next line says, “Select the items you want to update, then click Install.” Oops!

    Let’s think differently. We don’t need a “software update tool”. We need a “software installation tool” that does updates and new installs. However, that requires a software component redesign (however insignificant that may be), but more importantly, a paradigm shift for the purpose of the component.

    Being a long-term software developer, I am positive that this level of rethinking hasn’t happenned yet. It’s the kind of thing that tends to be ignored or ridiculed in design meetings, assuming anyone is thinking about it at all. I know this from personal experience.

    Hopefully someone from Apple is reading this, paying attention, and has enough clout to make the changes necessary to “maximize customer trust and satisfaction.” However, as it stands, it was the quickest and easiest and most cost effective way to try to increase exposure to Safari, and since people are used to this kind of behavior on Windows anyway, the damage is assumed to be minimal.

  3. Anonymous123,

    First, thanks for your comments. For that matter, there have been a lot of good comments here and I appreciate them all.

    You and I agree on your “real point” that we’d like control of our own machines.

    Further, we agree that Apple should leverage their Windows software into getting more software installed. When Jobs promised this, I didn’t bat an eye. Smart move. They’d be stupid not to.

    I did not know what form this would take, but a simple Updater app now adding a new install by default did not cross my mind. It’s so Real-like, So Microsoft-like. So “un-different”. As I said in my latest post on this topic, I wanted Apple to think different. Clearly, they did not. I’m wondering if, in the Windows world, perhaps they have little choice?

    If so, then at least I think the box to install Safari should be unchecked.

  4. Gagravaar: Thanks for the compliment, and no, I don’t have a blog.

    Tom: I understand that it feels… deceptive to be presented with an “update” to software that wasn’t installed in the first place.

    The real point is that we want to feel like we are in control of our computers, and don’t like it when we feel that vendors are imposing their will upon us, even in a slight way. However, I would pose a simple question. What would you have them do instead?

    Perhaps Apple could change the software updater so that it divides “updates” into two sections: Updates to installed software, and “offers” for additional software. The settings panel would then allow you to turn off updates and offers separately.

    However, I would strongly disagree with anyone who said Apple should not provide any conduit at all for new software to be installed on a Windows machine. Folks, we are about to enter the most contentious, perilous, unstable period of computing not witnessed since the destruction of DR-DOS and then Netscape by Microsoft. Microsoft is setting the stage for a major power play on the net, and we are all going to need all the help we can get to prevent them from continuing their monopoly into the web space.

    What Apple is doing in my opinion won’t be near enough, but at least *someone* has a foothold (toehold?) on the Windows desktop. Let us pray they can continue to hold their ground.

  5. As a Mac user, yes, it may be disturbing that Apple is doing this, but COME ON, Windows users are blowing this out of proportion. This is just fake outrage on their part. These are the same people that allow Microsoft to run WGA on their systems and didn’t bat an eye when Microsoft tricked them into installing the WGA into XP by disguising it as a security update. Yeah, it is disturbing if you’re not used to this treatment, but this is the world in which Windows people have chosen to live (Okay, I’m not talking about you, Tom. I know you still use Windows to a certain extent).

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Apple is getting aggressive, because after the introduction of Vista, they smell blood in the water. So they’re pushing very hard promoting Macs as an alternative. I don’t think they’ll ever get a chance like this again and it will only get better if Windows 7 is delayed or if it sucks as much as Vista.

    As you know, Tom, Apple is rumored to be in talks with the music companies about a subscription service? While I hate subscription services, I think this is good indication that Apple is willing to consider almost any option in order to beat Microsoft this round. Microsoft has been trying to desperately copy every Apple innovation and Apple knows it. They’re going to do everything in their power, to keep Microsoft from rising again.

  6. Wow. I actually agree with you for once. Apple *is* wrong on this issue. It’s wrong to try to compel people to use your stuff in an annoying manner. This really is something that real, microsoft, intuit, and others have done for a long time that Apple’s avoided. The fact that they are now resorting to this is a shame.

    For those of you saying “who cares, the windows experience already sucks,” you aren’t getting it. People can figure out for themselves which of Apple’s products they want. They don’t need Apple pulling stuff that smacks of the annoying tactics “lesser” companies have tried.

  7. I agree with Tom here. Apple should not use the insulting tactics of others. Still, it’s amusing to think that the very people who will be suckered in by this are the same ones who accepted IE in the first place without thinking. Ultimately it is at least partly their fault the web is such a mess. With luck a lot of them will install Safari and not even notice their browser has changed.

  8. Gagravaar,

    “Apple’s playing with the big boys now and needs to fight fire with fire.”

    You mean like licensing their OS?
    You mean like aggressively pursuing Enterprise sales?
    You mean like seeding FUD?
    You mean like making loss-leader crap machines and dumping them on the market?

    Honestly, of all the reasons I’ve heard for Apple to do this sleight of hand, fighting fire with fire is probably the worst.

    Oh, and if Apple is playing wit the big boys NOW, who were they playing with THEN? Apple got where they are with quality hardware and software. They did not need any of the tactics the PC market requires. They don’t need this one, either.

  9. Anonymous123: Good points, well made – do you have a blog?

    Small Wave: I think in this case you’re being naive, and need to realize that Apple’s playing with the big boys now and needs to fight fire with fire.

  10. And Tom, as you have already replied to David, there will be no need to reply to my post again. I understand your position, but I do not share your skepticism on this issue.

  11. This time I must disagree with your argument.

    1) You can choose not to install Apple Software Update when you install iTunes.
    2) If you installed Apple Software Update, it will not do automatic updates (it always ask for your permission, at least in my experience) and optionally you can configure it never to check for updates unless manually done.
    3) You can choose not to install Safari in the Apple Software Update by easily unchecking the box.
    4) If you installed Safari, it will never launch unless you tell it to.
    5) It does not add anything to the Windows startup, as far as I can see.
    6) It does not affect the operation of other softwares when it is not running.
    7) If you decide that you no longer want Safari it can be easily removed.

    I agree with Dennis above, this is no big deal. And, if this helps to reduce the proportion of Internet Explorer users on Windows this will definitely be a good thing. I am all for it.

  12. David,

    It doesn’t matter that Safari is free, nor does it matter that it “does not attempt to blow up your computer”. It’s awfully big of Apple not to try to crash my machine.

    There are hundreds of programs, plug-ins, extensions, etc. that are also free, and also don’t attempt to crash the computer, but I don’t want some alleged “updater” trying to install any of those I don’t run either.

    The issue is not whether we like Safari, or whether it’s any good, or even whether Apple should push it on Windows at all. The issue is that they should not do so in a manner that requires the user to be asleep at the wheel.

  13. I can certainly see why Windows/Explorer users would be pissed off.

    After all if you CHOOSE to use the worst operating system and browser in God’s creation it must be an abomination to be given the choice to use the fastest and only Web-2 compliant browser on the planet.

    It’s a shock to be given something decent to use in such a convenient way and goes against everything the virus platform stands for: shit software, perpetual destruction of one’s data, and daily theft of privacy.

  14. The only people PC people bothered by this are PC A-holes and those paid to hate. Lots of people will welcome the opportunity to try Safari.

  15. Even though it is not the worst of crimes, it is still, non-the-less, shameless, and especially coming from Apple! The whole thing seems totally contrary to everything that Apple become famous for and I can only hope that Apple rethinks their position on this one as it does nothing to maintain their image, yet alone to advance it; it could very well, however, tarnish it.

  16. i hear ya. like all setup programs that try to sneak in google toolbar and all other sorts of junk that you don’t need or want…

  17. I’m wondering why people are so upset about this. I don’t think it’s a big deal.

    Safari is a free program that does not attempt to blow up your computer. It’s not spyware. It’s a web browser that will have no impact on you other than taking up a few megs of disk space.

    The presentation of the software update screen, which allows you to opt out of installing Safari, is low key and non-obnoxious.

    Heck, if it makes even one person try Safari and stop using that awful Internet Explorer, I’d consider it worth a try.


  18. I was expecting this. That’s meaningless of course to anyone else, since I didn’t mention it earlier. However, the strategy is obvious. Why on earth would Apple port Safari to Windows in the first place? There was much debate over this when the beta was first released. However, I’m not sure anyone mentioned that it would provide a beach head for Apple web technology.

    Microsoft was terrified of Netscape, since it would have provided a conduit for non-Microsoft protocols and technology on their platform, undermining their desktop monopoly. In particular, Microsoft didn’t want Netscape to provide a foundation for Java. So Microsoft destroyed Netscape, and worked to undermine Java. This reasoning and strategy is clear from Microsoft’s own internal emails, revealed during the antitrust case.

    Now, Apple ported iTunes to Windows, and that has turned into an unmitigated success. Apple is not foolish. They know exactly what they have done. They are perhaps the first company in Microsoft’s history that has successfully maintained a landing zone on Windows for non-Microsoft technology for a significant period of time. iTunes has become a wedge in the Microsoft desktop monopoly space, and Apple is now applying force on that wedge. I fully expect (and expected) Apple to use iTunes as such a landing zone for more Apple technology. Safari is in fact an obvious choice. Apple *must* have a solid foundation on Windows to fight Silverlight. If Apple can use Safari to help promote open web standards on Windows, outside of Microsoft’s control, then this is truely a GOOD THING.

    Expect Microsoft to do everything they can to undermine Safari and iTunes on Vista and beyond. If you read Microsoft’s own internal emails, as revealed by the various antitrust cases brought against them, you will see obvious patterns in their thinking. This is true even with their desire to purchase Yahoo.

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