A long, long time ago, I was having lunch with some Apple folk and engineers. I noted Safari for Windows, which at the time was top, top secret… and folks started to turn their heads away from the table when they heard I knew about it.
I also noted how I was 100% sure that iTunes would pop up one day and ask users if they wanted to install Safari. I was dead right, though my vision in of it would work is a bit different than how it was implemented.
My idea, was that iTunes, when it polled for updates, would pop up an XML-formatted iTunes Store page. The page would be a promo for Safari for Windows, and suggest users one-click install it onto their systems. Instead, the application is picked up as a software instance on Apple Software Update for Windows. When it runs, Safari appears as an available installation, checked by default.
I can see how Mozilla’s CEO would feel that this is malware. Mozilla doesn’t have the #1 most-downloaded application in the world (iTunes). Mozilla has to get users from Firefox by working for them, doing deals with other companies (Google), advertising, and word-of-mouth.
But, I think Mozilla’s mindset is biased and flawed. Now, I will say that nobody doubts I’m partial to Apple, and the case can be made that my opinion is equally biased and flawed. That said, I don’t get a paycheck from Apple, so I don’t have a real stake in this game.
Here’s why. You could argue that Apple has a monopoly in the music business. If an iTunes update had automatically installed Safari (as part of the software’s payload), that could be viewed as an unfair use of the monopoly. They aren’t doing that, they popped up with a nebulous offer. I say it’s a nebulous offer, because Safari is not as well known as iTunes. To every Mac user, to every iPhone and iPod touch user… it is. But, to PC users that haven’t touched either (no pun intended), it’s not as clear what Safari is.
This brings in the rational interest part of things. If a user clicks on the update, they get an explanation of what it is. If that’s not a sufficient explanation, they shouldn’t install the update until they have read more, or asked someone, or done sufficient research. Mozilla is making the case that this isn’t sufficient, and I’m sorry, but it is. Malware makes vague and nebulous explanations… Apple is simply nebulous about the name.
If Apple were to be overly-zealous about this, I would say that the steps for improvement to pursue are clear. First, go back to my vision for promoting Safari in iTunes, and implement it. Then, revise Apple Software Update to differentiate between new software, and updated software. Finally, make the title “Safari Web Browser” on Windows, rather than the generic Safari. Safari is sufficient on platforms like Mac and iPhone where people use it, but on Windows going a step farther would be a huge step in appeasing the naysayers.
Since these suggestions don’t take a lot of effort, I think they will all eventually be implemented.