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Apple shovels admin iPhoneware onto PCs

Nefarious plot or brainless cock-up?

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Apple shot itself in its Software Update foot - again - by briefly offering an enterprise-level utility through its Windows update service.

Apple has since pulled the errant and thoroughly unnecessary software from the updater, but its brief inclusion left many - including The Reg - scratching their heads in puzzlement.

The utility in question was the iPhone Configuration Utility (PDF), which is used by sysadmins to "easily create, encrypt and install configuration profiles" for corporate iPhone users, controlling such features as VPN access, passcodes, Exchange settings, and the like.

The iPCU is clearly not something that a run-of-the-mill Windows user would have any need for. But if you fired up Apple Software Update on your PC recently, it was ready and waiting for your downloading pleasure.

And then on Monday afternoon, it was gone.

This oddity was first brought to our attention by Ed Bott over at Cnet, who noted that the iPCU was listed as an update - version 2.1 - and not in the updater's New Software list. Odder still, seeing as how Bott didn't have iPCU on his PC in the first place.

A simple mistake by an overworked Apple minion, right? Most likely. But it's interesting to note that Bott was told by another blogger that installing iPCU also installs the Apache web server. "So if I install this update I suddenly have a web server running on my PC? Yikes," he writes.

We, however, have been unable to confirm or deny this claim - finding only a brief blog posting from a PC user who writes "Just checked, and there’s no Apache process (just an iPCU.exe) when running the app."

On our Mac running Mac OS 10.6.1, by the way, Activity Monitor shows that firing up iPCU doesn't launch Apache (httpd) - which, by the way, has been included with Mac OS X from the beginning.

Apache or no Apache, Apple's inclusion of iPCU as an "update" is another embarrassment for Cupertino, which has shoveled software onto PCs in the past. Remember, for example, how ticked off Mozilla CEO John Lilly was when Software Update for Windows defaulted to a Safari download last March. Or - again according to Bott - how Apple slipped some surreptitious software into its iTunes 8 for Windows update of last September.

From where we sit, this latest gaff appears to be in the same class as Apple's original Safari for Windows silliness, when the EULA for that PC browser only allowed you to run it on "a single Apple-labeled computer."

In other words, just a dumb mistake by someone who, as Ricky would say to Lucy, "has some 'splainin' to do." ®

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