Apple has started posting the Windows version of its Safari browser as a download in Apple Software Update, the utility packaged with iTunes and QuickTime for Windows XP and Vista.

Joe Wilcox, who writes the 'Microsoft Watch' blog, was the first to notice the move. "The Apple updater offered installation of new software, not something that had been there before. Whoa," said Wilcox.

PC Advisor's sister title Computerworld US has confirmed that the update utility offers Safari 3.1 to Windows machines that don't have the browser currently installed. Typically, updaters only notify users of, or in some cases download and install, updates to existing software, and are rarely used to seed new software.

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The move, however, should not have been a surprise. Last June, when Jobs unveiled Safari for Windows at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, he clearly tied the browser's distribution to iTunes.

"But how are we going to distribute this? We don't really talk to these customers, do we?" Jobs asked, referring to Windows users. "What are we gonna do? Well, it turns out there are one million downloads of iTunes a day. Turns out there's been over half a billion downloads of iTunes to Windows."

In a statement Apple released that same day touting Safari, Jobs also hinted at the connection between iTunes and Safari. "Hundreds of millions of Windows users already use iTunes, and we look forward to turning them on to Safari's superior browsing experience, too," he said.

As with any update offered by the Windows utility, the Safari 3.1 download can be declined by unchecking a box.