I was thinking very much the same thing when I first got this notice on my Windows machine.
It really is wrong to make cause for users to mistrust, or even worse, to distrust, software update systems.
If the software update relationship isn't an honest and trusted one, user will suffer. Tarnishing the mechanism like this does the entire software industry a disservice.
update: Via c|net we get this gem from Apple flack Bill Evans,
We are using Software Update to make it easy and convenient for both Mac and Windows users to get the latest Safari update from Apple.
Misinformed or mendacious? You decide. I've already made up my mind and my opinion of Apple has been considerably diminished.
update2: And no, this isn't like the IE7 update. IE 7 is an update for IE 6 which is on my system. Safari 3.1 is not an update for my iTunes installation nor is it an update for my QuickTime install. It is simply not an update and it's completely disingenuous for Apple to make that claim.
Also a shame that journalists publishing the Apple statement didn't challenge such an obviously false claim.
update3: And no, I am not bothered by the idea of more Safari users on Windows. I don't think that's what this is about at all. Had Apple leveraged it's installed software by having iTunes or QuickTime prompt users with an offer to install additional software from Apple, that'd be fine with me.
What's not fine with me is strapping an unrequested program onto a mechanism that's before now been reserved for security and stability updates for already installed programs. Doing that weakens the trust that is critical to keeping users safe.
If people are afraid that by OK'ing an application update they will get unrequested new programs installed, they're going to stop being comfortable with application update services. That's bad for not just Mozilla, that's bad for anyone with a computer.
Apple could do the right thing by simply creating a separate service or by redesigning the current one to make a very explicit distinction between updates for installed programs and offers of new programs. If that was done right, it could be an effective channel for Apple to reach Windows users with new software offers.
I personally think it would be quite annoying to get software offers like this, but it wouldn't be harmful to the safety and security of hundreds of millions of computer users.
I suspect it wouldn't be terribly effective either and I'd wager that's why Apple took the more effective and more deceptive approach here.
update4: And no, this isn't the same as Acrobat Reader's installer offering the Google Toolbar or any of those other bundled installers. This isn't about crappy installers, it's about the pollution of the update experience.
There's a huge difference between cramming more crap into the install experience, which only serves to dissuade people from installing new software, and the damage this Apple action does to a mostly functioning update system that users mostly trust and need to trust to stay safe.
final update: since I had them in tabs I figured I'd dump the blog roundup here for anyone that's interested and for posterity.
InformationWeek » Mozilla CEO: Apple's Safari-To-Windows Distribution Scheme Is Wrong, Open Source | ZDNet.com » Mozilla CEO blasts Apple for distributing Safari 3.1 for Window on its update site, ReadWriteWeb » Apple Takes the Spyware-Style Low Road, Pushing Safari on Windows, Tech news blog - CNET News.com » Mozilla CEO says Apple's Safari auto-update 'wrong', Macworld » Mozilla CEO: Apple wrong 'pushing' Safari to Windows users, WebProNews » Mozilla CEO Blasts Apple's Safari Ploy, MacDailyNews » Mozilla CEO bemoans Apple's use of Software Update to suggest Safari to iTunes users, waffle » Where By "Interesting", I Mean "Annoying", InfoWorld | News » Mozilla CEO: Apple wrong in pushing Safari to Windows users, Blech Vox » A Translation of "Apple's Windows Invasion", aplus moments » That annoying neighbor, Clickety Clack » Response To Apple Safari Auto-Install, Tech news blog - CNET News.com » Apple pushes Safari on Windows via iTunes updater, Macsimum News » Mozilla CEO says Apple wrong to push Safari thorugh iTunes Updater, The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) » Is Apple pushing Safari 3.1 on Windows users?, applegazette » Apple using 'Microsoft-like' moves to get Safari on Windows Machines, Cybernet News » Apple Pushes Safari "Update" on Windows, InformationWeek » Apple Distributes Safari Via Software Update, greg hughes - dot net » Safari magically installing on Windows? Just say "no" if you don't want it..., p2pnet news » Apple Safari targets Windows users, VentureBeat » Outrage alert: Apple tricks lazy users into downloading Safari with iTunes, ComputerWorld » Apple pushes Windows Safari via iTunes updater, Download Squad » Safari 3.1 elbows its way onto the Windows desktop, Adnans Sysadmin/Scripting Blog » Safari on Windows, Movies on iTunes » Safari comes in auto-update. Windows users under ADD, Cannot see update options!, My Life » Apple um Hello We want to be Microsoft, GAFNO.com - Hot World News Blog » Mozilla CEO says Apple's Safari auto-update 'wrong', The News is NowPublic.com » Mozilla CEO: Apple's Safari-To-Windows Distribution Scheme Is Wrong, The Industry Standard » Outrage alert: Apple tricks lazy users into downloading Safari with iTunes, Webware : Cool Web apps for everyone » Mozilla CEO says Apple's Safari auto-update 'wrong', Paul's SuperSite blog » Mozilla responds to Apple's dubious use of Software Update to push Safari, Gizmodo » Mozilla CEO: Apple Auto-Installing Safari 3.1 "Borders on Malware", Tektodo » Heading out on Safari, The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) » Sneaky Safari Updater opinion roundup, STLtoday.com - Talking Tech » Mozilla boss supremely irked by Apple's Safari update (But why?), Marketing Pilgrim » Mozilla CEO Takes a Bite Out of Apple's Reputation, LoCo About Ubuntu! » Mozilla CEO Calls Out Apple on Safari, Software Journal » Mozilla not happy with Safari auto-install move by Apple, eNews 2.0 » Mozilla CEO Says Apple's New Windows Distribution Scheme Is Wrong, Weblog of a "switcher" » A lot of hub-bub about Apple Software Update for Windows, Ibleedyellow's Weblog » Software update politics from Apple... hence what could happen, Technology | Guardian Unlimited » Firefox boss slams Apple for trying to sneak Safari onto Windows PCs, The Boy Genius Report » Mozilla CEO: Safari = Malware?, Maven Mapper's » What's More Annoying that QuickTime Updates? Safari Auto Installations, insignificant thoughts » The Most Dramatic Checkbox Ever, Pedro Vera's Web Log » Mozilla CEO Says Apple's Safari 'Update' Undermines Users' Trust, Kortech Services Blog » Apple is forcing Safari?, Mashable » Apple Promotes Safari Installs Via iTunes Updater. Mozilla CEO Cries Foul., Digital Journal » Apple Accused of 'Bad Business' Tactics in Distribution of Web Browser, PC World » Mozilla CEO Criticizes Apple's Stealth Safari Update, How good is that? » Safari for Windows update kerfuffle, i drank the kool-aid: clutching my dixie cup of apple goodness » Apple Has Its Boot On The Necks Of Millions!!!, iTWire » Apple 'forcing' Safari on XP iTunes users - 'choice' or click trickery?, Tech Today » Apple distributes Safari 3.1 for windows via Apple update, Mozilla CEO furious, The Browser World » Apple's Safari distribution scheme is unethical - Mozilla CEO, Web Services » An Apple a Day, Tech-Ex » Apple Pushes Safari Via iTunes Update, Tales from the Crypto » Retro-bundling - another suck of the Apple, Tech Ticker » Slimy tactics won't earn Apple any more Safari users, Zoli's Blog » Apple's Sneakiness Did Not Start Today, Microsoft Watch » Apple Software Update is Ripe, Not Rotten, Brandon Paddock's Blog » Apple is the new Borg., Macworld » Apple pushes Windows Safari via iTunes updater, Irregular Enterprise | ZDNet.com » Question to Mozilla CEO: what do you fear?, Hardware 2.0 | ZDNet.com » Rotten Apple, eFluxMedia » Mozilla CEO Says Apple's Safari 'Update' Undermines Users' Trust, GameShout » Apple Updates Safari for Windows Users, The Small Wave » A Second Look: Apple Windows Updater, Safari 3.1, and You, The Official Blog of the SBS "Diva" » A translation to a person in charge of patch management, EliHorne » Why Apple's PC auto-update rocks my world, _jerieljan/ » Question to Dennis Howlett: Ever tried seeing both sides of the coin?, The Money Times » Mozilla CEO Criticizes Apple's Safari Auto Update, SaranX.com ~ Saran Saha » Mozilla CEO, Wazzup ?, Gordaen's Blog » Sneaky Safari Install at Gordaen's Blog, FULL clout » Is Apple pushing Safari 3.1 on Windows users?, Mom On The Run » iWannaMoreCrap, the media Guru » Safari for Windows, iTWire » Apple's dirty Safari installer wouldn't happen in open source, TrustedReviews » Safari Pushed To Windows Users Via iTunes, Baron VC » Daddy Jobs Always Knows Best