Unwantedware from Apple

By  |  Monday, September 28, 2009 at 3:03 am

Over at ZDNet, Ed Bott writes about discovering that Apple’s “Software Update” utility recommended he install a piece of software that wasn’t an update, for a product (the iPhone) which he doesn’t own:

So why do I have Apple Software Update running in the first place? Because, when I installed Boot Camp, Apple recommended it to me. Indeed, if there’s an important update to the Apple-provided software I actually chose to install – the Boot Camp services and assorted drivers for Apple’s hardware – I would like to know about it. But there is no scenario under which any of these programs could be considered updates to software I installed, and Apple never asked my permission to offer additional software to me.

I’m willing to accept the possibility that sloppiness rather than sneakiness is at fault here–unlike Apple’s earlier overzealous distribution of Safari to iTunes users, I can’t imagine what benefit the company is deriving from getting a geeky iPhone update onto the machines of folks who don’t own iPhones. But the end result sounds like it’s the same: It’s way too easy to end up with Apple software you don’t want.

If Apple intends to use Apple Software Update as a distribution channel for all-new software, it would behoove it to give the app a new name. And even then, it should be darn careful about pre-selecting checkboxes during the install routine.


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13 Comments For This Post

  1. Eyhk Says:

    Because when other software does the same thing, like installing toolbars and such, they are facepwned on the web as spamware or spyware (whether or not they actually SPAM or SPY on you).

    The auto-checking of installing software that I never asked for is specifically targeting the behaviour of many, if not most, internet users' trained response to installation software by clicking next next next for the defaults.

    Users trust innately trust the software vendor to provide optimal settings for them in the default profile, especially if it from a reputable company like Apple. Abusing the trust to push more software? Definitely not a tactic Apple, or any well-established software provider should use.

  2. SkateNY Says:

    It’s a dam shame that Apple treats customers, and/or, potential customers as though they can think on their own.

  3. SkateNY Says:

    This must be one of most misguided posts I’ve ever read.

    Each week, I receive solicitations for vacuum cleaners, “free” credit cards, and low-cost health insurance.

    It’s YOUR responsibility to choose as an adult, instead of blaming solicitors for your shortcomings.

    No one forces anyone to buy anything from Apple, Dell, Microsoft, or Walmart.

    Grow up.

  4. Zoli Erdos Says:

    Harry, the previous incident wasn’t only about Safari – the same program also tried to install iTunes on Windows PCs that did not have it at all.
    There’s a tendency here that goes beyond sloppiness.

  5. Vulpine Says:

    My friend, you do know you can select the item, then go into the menu bar and tell the Apple updater to ignore it, don’t you? After that, you’ll only see new updates as they come along, and any one you don’t want to see again, just tell the updater to ignore it. No annoying popups ever day or two saying, “You haven’t installed ‘X’ update yet!”

  6. Chip Says:

    I find all of this to be quite an overreaction.

    When I launch Software Update, I get the following message: “New software is available for your computer.”

    I then am shown updates that I may choose to install or not. Clicking on each one tells me why I might want to update it.

    Why is there outrage?

  7. Eyhk Says:

    Just to reply to Chip, you may not have noticed if you already install all the software Apple provides, but here’s an example.

    I am a happy Firefox user and I only wanted to install iTunes to buy downloadable music to listen to on my desktop computer. I have no iPod or iTunes. Installing iTunes, however, also comes with the Apple Software Update as default. Since I trust Apple and would like to keep iTunes updated, of course I select the default to install Apple Software Update. However, next time it pops up and recommends that I update iTunes, it also includes (by default) the iPhone software AND Safari web browser.

    Anybody not knowing or paying attention to the defaults that Apple provides, unknowingly has also installed several pieces of software that they never asked for. I haven’t tried, but I wouldn’t be surprised if by installing Safari, it will ask to change your default browser to Safari as well.

    Now, just because I wanted to listen to some music, I have iPhone software constantly running on your computer, AND my default browser changed to Safari.

    My fault? Yes. Sneaky? Definitely.
    Should I trust this company in the future? It depends.

    Just to clarify, I’m not a Apple hater. I don’t use the Mac or Safari browser, but I liked what Apple stood for and I stood in line for hours to get the iPhone 3G and now the 3GS. Jay Freeman(Saurik) put in much more eloquent words what I would like to say so if you are interested, follow the link: http://www.saurik.com/id/12

  8. Eyhk Says:

    *your computer -> my computer (4th paragraph)

  9. Louis Wheeler Says:

    What is the point of this hysteria?

    Is it that you assume that Windows users have no ability to make correct decisions? And if a box is automatically checked off, they are too ignorant to be able to decide whether they want to follow Apple’s recommendations? Is it that you don’t want the purity of your Wintel box to be corrupted by Apple’s software?

    That is fine for your computer, but you want to make that decision for other Windows users, who you must think are idiots.

  10. John Says:

    Of all the things we need to worry a out this has to be a rather low priority.

  11. Steven Fisher Says:

    @Eyhk: Installing Safari doesn’t change your default browser. Firefox does do that, however.

  12. JDoors Says:

    Love the blind defense of this kind of lunacy. 😀

  13. Eyhk Says:

    You’re right Steven, I just tried it out. The Apple Software “Update” simply “updates” the non-existant software on my machine and magically lets it sit there until I click on it. It doesn’t try to change my default browser.
    Which also completely misses the point.

    Why is Apple trying to “update” Safari4 in the first place?

    All we’re asking here is some common sense and respect of trust. I trust Apple by using their software. Don’t abuse my trust into installing “shovelware” onto my system. And certainly don’t make me have to click off Safari or iTunes or the iPhone Configuration Utility every single damn time I check for an update to Quicktime.

    (Correction for my original post, “shovelware” was the word I was looking for)

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