Apple again used its software update tool to push a program that was previously not installed on PCs, according to Computerworld tests early Monday.
Later in the day, however, Apple removed the software from the update list.
Apple's Software Update for Windows -- a utility most often installed on PCs when users download iTunes -- was offering something called "iPhone Configuration Utility" to Windows users, even those who have never connected an iPhone to their computers.
Popular Windows blogger Ed Bott first reported on ZDNet that the tool was included in new updates. Computerworld confirmed that the 22MB download was offered to PCs -- including those running Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) and Vista SP2 -- that had never been used to synchronize an iPhone.
The tool, chimed in Simon Bisson of itexpertmag.com, is actually an enterprise-grade tool for network administrators, who use it to create and deploy device profiles so users can securely connect to a company's Exchange mail servers.
According to Bisson, the iPhone Configuration Utility also adds the open-source Apache Web server software to the PC. "The thing with that iPhone config utility is that it's an enterprise tool for building device profiles. It's not for consumers!" Bisson said on Twitter.
Apple has been criticized in the past for using its software updating service to push unwanted software. Last year, for example, the company came under fire for offering Safari for Windows to users who had not installed the application, going so far as to pre-check the program so that users who simply accepted the default downloads received the browser. John Lilly, the CEO of Mozilla, the open-source developer responsible for Firefox, said Apple's tactic "undermines the Internet" because updates are traditionally used to patch or fix existing software, not install new programs.
Later, Apple quietly changed Software Update so that Safari was unchecked, requiring users to explicitly request the browser.
By 3:30 p.m. EST, Apple Software Update had dropped the iPhone Configuration Utility as a potential update to the same PCs that had earlier indicated the tool should be downloaded.
Apple did not immediately respond to questions about why the iPhone utility had been offered, and whether the company had erred in listing it as an update for Windows users.