I presume everyone remembers the whole debate about Apple misusing Software Update to push Safari to iTunes users. For those who don’t, I’d suggest reading John Lilly’s blog post on the topic. Several prominent Mozilla bloggers spoke out about that practice.
It did help their market share according to Net Apps, though we’re talking 0.07 for Safari 3.0 vs. 0.21% for Safari 3.1. Not major, but still noteworthy that it did get installs.
To put this into a little more perspective, Apple has over 35 million iTunes installations (thanks mostly to the iPod). How many of which use software updater, I can’t find any way to accurately guess.
As of the latest release, Apple now separated software updates from installs in their updater, but still keeps it checked by default. It makes me wonder how many people realize it, and how many just find the strange icon on their computer. This could backfire in the long run and become thought of as crapware when it’s not in fact a “free trial” but legitimate fully usable complete software.
I suspect this will be a topic of discussion for several months to come in the software world.