One Click: Downloads made simple

One-Click Install is part of the $US995 InstallShield Professional 6.2, released in May as an upgrade to the familiar InstallShield software. Used by 91 of the top 100 Windows software developers, InstallShield is the software that pops up during installation of most Windows programs on CDs and magnetic disks, says Chris Woerner, product manager.

"We expect that a lot of customers using the previous version will probably adopt One-Click Install," Woerner says. If that happens, consumers are "likely to see it coming out anytime between one and six months from now."

To demonstrate One-Click Install, the company's website contains a link to WeatherBug, a free utility that displays weather data collected at schools nationwide.

When you click the Install button, One-Click Install displays a box certifying that the software hasn't been altered since publication and that the publisher's identity was verified with a VeriSign digital certificate. It asks you choose the default directory, complete a short registration form, and click to finish. WeatherBug takes a few minutes to download, then runs its own opening sequence.

Competitor Wise Solutions makes Windows and Web installation software. But unlike One-Click Install, the Web Deploy feature in Wise's InstallMaster 8.0 can't pass information from Web site registration into the installation program, a process that saves users the time of reentering information.

One-Click Install also can report back to the vendor whether an installation succeeded or failed, Woerner says. Half of all Web downloads are never installed, the company finds.

But Wise president Brien Witkowski says InstallMaster also saves form data, storing it on the website's servers. Success/fail reporting is of limited value, Witkowski says.

Witkowski also says One-Click Install downloads an ActiveX control or Java plug-in that could give malicious hackers entry to PCs, but Wise's WebDeploy downloads an .exe file.

InstallShield disputes Witkowski's criticisms, saying customers requested the reporting feature. "These people are having trouble knowing who downloads their software successfully and who does not," Woerner says. "Sites were losing a number of people." And One-Click Install's digital signature feature prevents secret or malicious downloads, he says, since users must expressly agree to accept any downloads. Woerner adds that the safety of ActiveX plug-ins is well established, citing the popularity of Microsoft's Media Player and Macromedia's Flash.

Woerner promises that InstallShield collects no information about users and their PCs during the process. But should you just let software download and install itself without the usual safeguards? Woerner says websites and software vendors can still build in the traditional checkpoints, such as asking you to specify a directory or advising you to close other programs to avoid conflicts.

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