It appears that the latest update from Apple for the Apple Software Update service (v2.1) has made an important, though not sufficient improvement. Now the updater has discrete sections for "Updates" and "New Software".
This is a good first step. Now Apple needs to stop checking the box for "New Software" items by default. With that change, I think I'd be pretty happy to let the Apple Software Update service back on my Windows machine.
update: Looks like others agree. InformationWeek » Apple Ends Stealth Safari Installs Via Software Update For Windows GameShout » After the sneaky way that Apple slipped its software... PC World » Stop QuickTime Nagging About Safari, U.S.News and World Report » Apple Still Pestering Us About Safari, Marketing Pilgrim » Does Mozilla Control Apple’s Reputation?, Compiler from Wired.com » Apple Backs Off Slightly on Aggressive Software Update Tactics, Computer World » Apple makes minor concession on pushing Safari to Windows users, PC Pro News » Apple alters updater following Safari protest, Today @ PC World » Apple Bows to PC Users' Concerns Over Safari Update, Macworld » Apple alters Windows software update tool, Ars Technica » Apple updates Software Update for Windows, Safari optional, The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) » Apple changes Software Update GUI for Windows, Channel Register » Apple gets (slightly) less sneaky with Windows Safari play, AppleInsider » Apple tweaks Software Update for Windows following uproar, Techwhack » Apple updates Apple Software Update to support new software installation, ZDNet.com's Hardware 2.0 » Apple tweaks Software Updater following criticism, CNET News.com's Tech news blog » After complaints, Apple tweaks Software Update for Safari, Ryan Naraine's Security Watch » After Criticism, Apple Software Updater Gets UI Makeover