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Where By “Interesting”, I Mean “Annoying”

Gruber comments on Apple’s Windows Software Update tactics, in which offering up Safari as a “software update” for any other of Apple’s Windows applications is deemed “interesting”.

Well, no.

Apple knows how to behave on their own platform. When I talk to Windows-using friends, Apple is legendary for being bad Windows citizens. I don’t think that’s the case myself. iTunes, for example, is often brought up as a slow resource hog, something that I never saw after the initial dog-slow iTunes 4.1 or the initial dog-slow Safari 3.0 beta. (Maybe Apple’s Windows QA leaves something to be desired.) But Apple’s certainly not doing their best to be a good Windows citizen.

  • Installing QuickTime reinstates that bloody fucking tray icon every time. Even if they’ve stopped doing this, putting it there by default is complete bullshit. Just because everyone else is doing so doesn’t mean people like these arcane tokens in their bottom right. There’s absolutely no need for there to be a tray icon, just like, say, there’s no need to stick a tray icon there every time Java is running in a browser. (Hello, Sun!)

    Update: An anonymous tipster claims that QuickTime no longer puts the icon in the tray by default.

  • Installing QuickTime without iTunes is not the default. This is important. People expect Apple, as the provider of a secondary platform, to show that they know how to behave and not bundle crap like everyone else does. Hosting iTunes with QuickTime bundled is fine since QuickTime is what makes iTunes able to play music in the first place. But it’s not the other way around, and Apple should know better.

  • Listing new applications in the Software Update list is wrong. It’s Software Update, not Software Installer. Google, even if they too call it an ‘Updater’, does this right on OS X by making it ridiculously clear that you’re about to install a new product instead of updating an existing product, but even so this is not a feature that most people expect of an updater.

  • More or less silently installing completely new applications is so much bullshit it’s hard for me to stomach. Imagine downloading QuickTime, running Software Update and hitting the “Update” button (and the “I agree” EULA buttons). When you return from lunch, there are two new icons on your Desktop: iTunes and Safari.

    Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong!

    Even if we concede that yeah, Apple Software Update should be able to install new apps from Apple, and sure, Apple should be able to point out to you that there are new applications, and okay, these applications may even appear in the same list as the updates, there’s absolutely no fucking reason whatsoever for them to be pre-checked for installation, the same fate as actual updates and actual security fixes to the products you’ve actually got installed already.

    This is disgraceful. It fails the user in favor of serving Apple. It is, in fact, malware-level tactics. You don’t get to push new applications to people just like that, you just don’t, no matter how good you think they are, no matter how good they actually are. Software Update is a malfunctioning application since it can’t be relied on to just update. It fails “first, do no harm”.

Apple’s done three good things for Windows in the past year: they’ve introduced Safari, making it possible for web designers to not have to run out and buy Macs and ending decades of bad excuses; they’ve adapted most products to run well on Vista and they’ve introduced 64-bit versions of iTunes, QuickTime and Bonjour. This is progress, but they still haven’t really gotten their act together.


  1. About that tray icon. It’s not so much that everyone else is doing it any more. Most installers are kind enough to offer you the option of not putting it there. Apple doesn’t even give you the option. It’s just there. And if you happen to delete it before the installer has run its course, you’ll have to delete it a second time. From the perspective of a Windows user who has never used a Mac, one might think that Apple knows nothing about how to do software right.

    By http://full-speed.org/ · 2008.03.20 15:35

  2. Hear, hear! I am glad I had other pushes to switch to OS X, because when I was still using Windows I hated having to install Quicktime…it was always hard to find the standalone installer, and then I always had to clean up its preferences to get it out of the stinking antivirus department of my screen.

    I remember being disappointed that some videos my wife put up with iWeb wouldn’t play on her family’s Windows PCs. At the time I thought “Good grief, keep your Quicktime up to date…it’s that glass of ice water thing.” But indeed it is not.

    If Apple wants Quicktime to be a respected standard in the Windows world, they need to stop treating it as adware for iTMS. Let the iPods and iPhones sell the Store! Otherwise iTunes always starts out as “that stupid software I had to install”.

    By n[ate]vw · 2008.03.20 16:53

  3. Let me add one more thing on the “ice water” theme which I now realize: Quicktime and iTunes (and I’ll bet Safari most of all) are indeed a relief when, as a Mac user, I sit down at someone else’s Windows machine. Apple’s strategy might seem generous from their perspective.

    You are quite right, though, that it shows a great disrespect for those who for whatever reason are still vader-box owners and Windows users.

    By n[ate]vw · 2008.03.20 17:08

  4. I have to agree. Trying to tell windows users how much you like Mac software is a lot harder when they have such a bad taste in their mouth about Quicktime/Software Update.

    It also annoys me that Apple doesn’t use standard windows widgets. They try to make their apps look like OSX apps, but a unified toolbar just doesn’t look right when the menu is in the window.

    By Mike Oldham · 2008.03.20 18:17

  5. Yes, I agree with Mike: A program should behave like the platform it’s on; even if you as a developer disagree with the platform’s standards, you have to follow the user’s expectations. I hate to say it when I’m talking about Windows but Office 2008 is a prime example of what happens when you don’t.

    And I agree very much with the main point of the article. Safari has nothing to do with iTunes and QuickTime from the user’s perspective, and QuickTime has nothing to do with the other two for a lot of people. (I would guess, however, that the iTMS is using WebKit.)

    On the other hand, though, the tray icon isn’t useless, just annoying. The reason it’s there, and the Java one too, is because it can keep the program partially loaded into memory. Taking up space in the tray, though, is annoying enough that the extra half-second-or-less just isn’t worth it. This should definitely be opt-in, not automatic.

    By jediknil · 2008.03.20 23:48

  6. Agree with the post: Apple shouldn’t install crapware. However, as a developer, I also agree with Apple’s use of non-standard widgets. XP & Vista have ugly widgets and you can’t fault Apple for not going along with MS’s bad taste. I for one have decided to use iTune’s widget for my Windows app.

    By P. · 2008.03.21 02:50

  7. The iTunes Store does not use WebKit in any way whatsoever. It looks like it could, but it doesn’t.

    It’s interesting to see the mentions of “non-standard widgets”, since that’s a parade I didn’t rain on in the post. My main problem with Apple’s UI on Windows is that it’s completely schizo. AirPort Utility and Software Update look like regular Windows apps, iTunes and QuickTime look like OS X apps except for the Preferences and Safari looks like OS X everywhere (including, famously, text rendering), except for the View Source window.

    By Jesper · 2008.03.21 04:52

  8. The difficulty of getting Quicktime without the iTunes and the Quicktime tray icon are two of the things that turn me off of Apple and made me refuse to buy. Luckily I took the plunge when the shipped the intel books. I was going to install windows, but OS X has none of the feeling of crapware that Apple’s windows offerings always did. It was like two seperate companies.

    By http://openid.aol.com/justinnames · 2008.03.21 06:50

  9. Good post, it is time for the community to move Apple towards better Windows citizenship. About the widgets:

    I think it is possible to have a “Mac-like” design in a Windows app without going overboard. Safari is going overboard. Great examples are Software Update or the Options dialogue in iTunes. They are very Mac, but they also look natural in the Windows environment. The best part is, that they look better than most Windows apps.

    That is the design Apple should aim for on Windows.

    By http://ak1808.myopenid.com/ · 2008.03.21 10:29

  10. I am a mac user, and an administrator for a moderately-large Windows network.

    It pains me to have to do this, but AppleSoftwareUpdate.exe has now been thrown in the “malware” bin, so none of our corporate PCs are going to be running it anymore. This creates more work for us IT folks, because then we have to write routines to uninstall any Safari that’s been deployed, and now have to start packaging and pushing out Quicktime and iTunes updates individually. Ugh.

    By chota · 2008.03.21 14:05

  11. Until they remove this clicked-by-default behaviour, you can use the “Tools > Ignore selected updates” feature. Source

    By streetpc · 2008.03.21 14:55

  12. Yep. That there are several ways to opt out does not excuse the default behavior.

    By Jesper · 2008.03.21 15:31

  13. Strong agreement on this point – Apple has nicely polished apps on OS X but, frankly, looks rather clownish on Windows when they should be giving that “Buy a Mac and everything will be this slick” vibe.

    A couple of annoyances:

    Software Update can’t handle privileged accounts – I had several go-arounds with engineers in bug reporter before I managed to get the point across that you look stupid if you persistently recommend an update which will fail non-obviously because the current user is not an administrator (no auth dialog, either). Good security should be rewarded…

    The major annoyance, though, and the one which lead to e.g. Real Player no longer being on our windows systems is both reckless negligence on the security front (QuickTime should be sandboxed as well as IE on XP SP2 or later even if they can’t afford a better code audit) and the fact that there’s no way to update my labs of Windows systems without writing my own installer. If they want to have the world using QuickTime & iTunes they need to ship .MSI files which can be silently installed on normal systems.

    By http://acdha.livejournal.com/ · 2008.03.21 15:36

  14. I agree with the general sentiment that Apple has been a terrible Windows citizen, when, as Acdha puts it, «they should be giving that “Buy a Mac and everything will be this slick” vibe.» But they’re not getting everything wrong, and are indeed doing many things better than other vendors. For example, Software Update hooks into Scheduled Tasks rather than running as its own service. Advertising additional apps and making their installation the default is a terrible tactic, but that aside, Software Update is actually a far better update app than I’ve seen in any Windows software, including Windows Update itself, which only with Vista is finally gaining a non-browser interface. (Thanks to frameworks like Sparkle, the Mac software market is well ahead in this regard. Most Windows apps still go the “please go to this website route”.)

    At the same time, iTunes runs an iPodService even when you don’t own an iPod or don’t sync yours with that machine, a MobileDeviceSupport service even if you don’t have an iPhone, and an iTunes helper application even when you haven’t had iTunes running for a while. That’s awfully bad, especially as a default the user isn’t made aware of. Needless crippling such as QuickTime Player not offering free full-screen mode when iTunes does (while playing the exact same files — through QuickTime, after all!) doesn’t exactly help the reputation.

    Several of Apple’s apps keep adding shortcuts of themselves to the Desktop and to Quick Launch whenever you update them; I believe QuickTime has finally stopped re-adding itself to the notification area a while ago (though I’m not positive), which was ridiculous and indefensible.

    Now, a few responses:

    Streetpc: unfortunately, not only is the ignore feature an opt-out setting (which, as Jesper says, is an unacceptable default), it also only applies to a specific version. Ignore one iTunes release and the next one wil be presented to you anyway. (I’ve tried.)

    Chota, Acdha: you don’t have to package QuickTime or iTunes at all. Software Update uses MSI. Look for yourself: http://swcatalog.apple.com/content/catalogs/others/index-windows-1.sucatalog — that’s the file Software Update parses. The installers are either directly MSI files, or wrappers around them, so it should work just fine with IntelliMirror and other forms of deployment. (Apple should, however, make those links more discoverable.)

    By http://chucker23n.livejournal.com/ · 2008.03.21 16:21

  15. Of course Software Update is a tremendous updater. It even schedules itself using the Windows Scheduled Tasks control panel. Software Update, judged purely by its software updating skills, bests Vista Windows Update, especially in terms of the data per ink ratio, and certainly beats pre-Microsoft Update attempts by Microsoft to update other apps.

    I hope it’s clear that it’s the rest of the things that Software Update does — things I believe it shouldn’t even attempt to do and that in any case could be handled way more smoothly — that’s bringing me down.

    By Jesper · 2008.03.21 16:37

  16. […] Jesper also responded to Gruber’s comment of interesting. Bottom line – he really doesn’t like this move from […]

    By Safari 3.1 Update on Windows Machines · 2008.03.21 16:42

  17. I’ve long been a happy Windows and MacOS user…

    And I refuse to install QuickTime on Windows – it sucks that badly. I use QuickTimeAlternative instead (much like I refuse to use RealPlayer, though not quite as evil).

    It’s like Apple, despite their amazing UI thinking in general, missed the idea that QuickTimePlayer shouldn’t be a trainwreck.

    By http://sigivald.livejournal.com/ · 2008.03.21 20:51

  18. @1

    Re: windows users wondering if apple know nothing about how to write software:

    I’ve been wondering that for about 10 years now, and I did own macs, several of them from Quadras thru G4s. The fact of the matter is while apple software looks nice on the outside, it tends not to follow their own guidelines, and more often than not defecates on the user when the user tries to do something the ‘non-apple way’. Quicktime on windows is no worse in any real regard than the rest of their software.

    When I had my macs, I would invariably end up having to install a half dozen 3rd party apps just to allow me to use my mac MY way, and each time apple updated OS X or some other part of the system, it would mean waiting for new versions of the 3rd party apps, because even developers get the shaft from apple.

    By NikkiA · 2008.03.21 21:32

  19. You’re on Reddit: http://reddit.com/info/6cy26/comments/

    By Peter Hosey · 2008.03.21 23:10

  20. […] you don’t know what I’m taking then read Jesper’s post on it, or skim through DaringFireball.net (John Gruber has done a good job of covering both sides of this […]

    By Equinox of Insanity — Nima’s Take on the Internet Brouhaha over Apple’s Use of the Software Update App That Comes with iTunes to Install Safari 3.1 for Windows on Systems That Didn’t Previously Have Safari Installed on Them · 2008.03.22 23:07

  21. […] has been a lot of griping about how Apple is trying to “pull a fast one” and sneak a copy of Safari onto Windows based computers by […]

    By A lot of hub-bub about Apple Software Update for Windows « Weblog of a “switcher” · 2008.03.23 01:59

  22. Agreed about it being selected by default being annoying. Safari is not singled out though. At work I have Safari installed, but not iTunes/Quicktime. Before I disabled the scheduled job for Apple Software Update, it would always prompt me to install iTunes when ASU ran. So it looks like the default behavior is, “push all Apple software” rather than “push Safari”

    By http://skoon.myopenid.com/ · 2008.03.23 06:07

  23. […] not have it at all. John Gruber finds that interesting, Paul Mison concurs, while I more agree with Waffle’s take (site seemingly down at the moment of writing) that this is despicable move. In essence, this is no […]

    By That annoying neighbor | published @ aplus moments · 2008.03.24 00:50

  24. […] Further reading: Where By “Interesting”, I Mean “Annoying” […]

    By Today, I Lose All Respect For Apple: Software “Updater” Installs Safari at Elliot Lee · 2008.03.24 07:45

  25. […] this practice as interesting Jesper over at Waffle summed up very nicely the problem with this here and […]

    By Roll A Monkey » Blog Archive » Jackass of the Week · 2008.03.24 10:16

  26. […] So now I have free Safari.  Courtesy of Itunes’ automatic update. […]

    By Steve Jobs Must Think I’m Some Damned Pubbie | Popehat · 2008.03.24 21:31

  27. […] Waffle:Where By “Interesting”, I Mean “Annoying” […]

    By A lot of hub-bub about Apple Software Update for Windows · 2008.03.28 15:41

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