Monday, March 24, 2008

'Stealth' Safari Installation Draws Fire for Apple

Jennifer LeClaire, newsfactor

AppleCEO John Lilly on Friday blasted Apple for including the Safari browser in its iTunes automatic update service for Mac and Windows operating systems. Mozilla makes the open-source Firefox Web browser.

Breaching a Trust

From Lilly's perspective, it's important for users to be protected from vulnerabilities. Apple, he argues, is breaching a trust.

"There's an implicit trust relationship between software makers and customers in this regard: As a software maker we promise to do our very best to keep users safe and will provide the quickest updates possible, with absolutely no other agenda," Lilly said. "And when the user trusts the software maker, they'll generally go ahead and install the patch, keeping themselves and everyone else safe."

Lilly's blog post stirred up dozens of comments.

"This is just a sick way of tricking users to download their browser by making it seem as if an update is available for a piece of software already installed. I bet it even takes over as the default browser afterward, which would look very bad on Apple," a commenter named "Kurt" wrote on the Mozilla blog. Meanwhile, "Ian Hayward" said he is shocked and feels "a little less good" about Apple.

Hurting Mozilla's Pocketbook

Apple was not immediately available for comment, but some media pundits suspect Lilly's tirade is as much about money as about security. Mozilla generates significant revenue by putting the Google search box in its browser as the default placement. Mozilla gleaned $66.8 million in revenue from Google last year. That's 85 percent of the organization's revenue.

"From an economic standpoint it could be that this is true, that this is really about revenues to Mozilla from Google, and that's why they are upset. I am sure it's not entirely a cynical thing. I am sure there is a mix of concerns there, one of which is probably economic," said Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence.

Sterling is betting against a mass exodus, or even a significant defection, from
Mozilla to Safari. If Safari became far and away better than Mozilla's Firefox and the browser-using world began buzzing about the Apple software, then it might be a different story. But Sterling doesn't see installing Safari as a danger to Mozilla's market share on Windows machines.

Reactions against Apple may be something else.

"People are reacting to this because it seems very un-Apple-like," Sterling said. "Some people think Apple shouldn't be engaged in this type of thing. It's something people associate with other types of companies, and this is seemingly stealth behavior is unworthy of Apple."

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