All right, Apple… what the hell?

Apple has started offering Windows users its Safari 3.1 Web browser through the same online updater it utilizes for iTunes and the QuickTime video player.

With the release of Safari 3.1 on Tuesday, Apple started giving Windows users the option of downloading Safari via the Apple Software Update pop-up.

“Safari for Windows is the fastest and easiest-to-use web browser for the PC. It displays web pages faster than any other browser and is filled with innovative features — all delivered in an efficient and elegant user interface,” states Apple’s message in the pop-up screen.

The move is a more aggressive play by Apple to snatch browser market share from Microsoft.

In February, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer had a 74.9 percent share of the browser market in terms of usage, while Firefox had 17.3 percent, and Safari had 5.7 percent, according to figures from Net Applications, which measures Web traffic and market share.

Now, granted, I don’t have a problem with Safari. Hell, on my PowerBook, it’s actually my web browser of choice. The thing is, I expect Apple Software Update to be providing updates to already-installed software, not trying to install NEW software and pass iit off as an update. That just comes off as too damn sneaky, in my opinion, not to mention slightly dishonest. I’ve even seen people notice it without seeing the news stories on CNet and Slashdot.

On the bright side, Apple Software Update gives one the option to opt-out (even though it should have been opt-in in the first place). I decided to opt-out; on Windows, my web browser of choice is still Firefox. It should be interesting to see if Apple Software Update tries to foist Safari on me again in the future, though.