As I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, Apple caused a stir by bundling Safari with iTunes and QuickTime updates. Most noteworthy among the response is probably Mozilla CEO John Lilly’s blog post, calling Cupertino’s move plain “wrong”.
Everyone’s had their say, so if you’ve been following the issue, I doubt I’ll be able to introduce much of a fresh perspective. Nonetheless, I feel I should elaborate. Needless to say, personally, I couldn’t possibly agree with Apple’s tactics.
Promoting your product is one thing, but regardless of how nice you think it is, you do not force it upon the uneducated user unless it’s a recommended update. And, basically, the only valid reason to recommend an update is for security reasons. One might argue that Apple feels Safari is more secure than Internet Explorer, and that may very well be the case, but it’s not their decision. The application is called the “Apple Software Updater” and thus should only update Apple’s software. Additional packages should only be installed when explicitly requested.
Many have argued that one has the option to uncheck the Safari item in the list of updates. This is true, but not a valid point. The bottom line is that, by default, one is presented with the following window:
- Apple Software Update (courtesy of CNET)
The fact that Safari is checked by default makes all the difference. The majority of users don’t bother to inspect the window and just let Apple install whatever they think is necessary. As John Lilly points out, this violates the implicit trust relationship between manufacturer and consumer.
Obviously, your average fanboy’s first response is to play the Microsoft card. However, first of all, back when Internet Explorer was introduced, it was an optional download and at no point did the operating system recommend installing it. And yes, Microsoft did start bundling it with Windows, because that’s what the user expects. OS X comes with Safari and your average Linux distribution comes with at least one web browser. The difference, however, is that Microsoft does not prompt the user to install Internet Explorer with Windows Media Player, or the other way around. They’re individual options in Windows Update, because they’re individual products.
Naturally, Apple’s only goal is to gain market share for Safari. I’ll admit it’s not a bad browser. Compare WebKit to where KHTML was before Apple jumped on it, and you’ll see they’ve made tremendous strides. Safari even has CSS animations and Web fonts now. It’s a state of the art browser and probably deserves more market share. Here’s the thing though: the same goes for Firefox and Opera. Moreover, those two don’t have Apple’s insanely effective marketing technique. If Cupertino feels the need to force Safari upon users, to me, that says they couldn’t come up with a marketing campaign that would make those users want to use it. What does that say about the product?
Finally, I’d like to point out that I am very much aware that Apple had announced their plans. Steve didn’t go into detail, but it was to be expected, given their aggressive approach to bundling iTunes and QuickTime. The Safari move, however, takes it one step further. And yet again, they can pull it off, because they’re Apple. Rest assured, though, that their arrogance will reach a summit. Users do have a choice.