June 11, 2007

Apple’s Safari Comes to Windows

Filed under: Apple, Microsoft, Technology — Tom @ 4:06 pm

Safari on WindowsToday at the Apple World Wide Developer Conference, Steve Jobs gave us a rundown of the features in Leopard — again.

Overall, the event was a little disappointing. It’s not that I’m not excited about Leopard. Some new features were discussed and the new Mac OS X certainly looks like a fantastic upgrade, but we’d already seen most of this.

But Steve’s “one more thing” was interesting — Safari 3 was available immediately as a public beta, and it was available for Mac and Windows. Knowing that this was coming, I imagine Steve must have been anxiously awaiting the right opportunity to make his “giving ice water to people in hell” comment about iTunes for Windows.

Safari for Windows makes a lot of sense. If the iPhone is going to run Safari and only support third party apps via web 2.0 and AJAX technologies (a major disappointment), there’s a lot of potential upside. Broader adoption of Safari means better support by web developers; Apple fans then get a more consistent browsing experience whether they’re using a Mac, a PC or an iPhone. There are still times when I can’t use Safari (like in WordPress.com’s visual post editor right now).

Personally, I was just excited to see the Safari 3 beta. I’ve already installed it on my Mac and Windows machines and it’s pretty impressive. This version closes some significant gaps with Firefox and passes it by in some places. Finally, I can reorder the tabs in my browser — or just pull a tab off and create a new window, something I can’t do in Firefox.

Safari 3 also provides a decent Find command. The new Find now highlights all items on the page, like Firefox; visually, I think I like the Safari Find better. (Major Safari 3 letdown — I couldn’t locate any .Mac settings on the Windows version so my bookmarks there will continue to be out of sync with my other machines.)

It really doesn’t matter whether someone prefers Safari or Firefox, however. What matters is that the number of Windows browsers that are far better than IE7 just increased by one. Between Firefox, Opera and now Safari, I can’t imagine why anyone would use IE7 at all. And that’s probably the plan — increase the alternatives and push developers away from Windows-only, IE-only technologies for their sites.

One other thing did occur to me, though. The debate over whether Mac OS X is really more virus-proof than Windows — or whether it’s merely ignored by hackers thanks to its small market share — isn’t going to get resolved without a major upheaval in the OS market.

But this Apple move may give us some insight into the question by letting us compare each company’s approach to security more directly. Internet Explorer has long been plagued by security issues. Now Safari is available, running side-by-side with IE on the same Windows platform. Will we see the same kinds of problems?I don’t think so. Of course, Safari will need to grab a reasonable share of Windows users before we can draw any conclusions. If they do, we might be able to finally decide whether Mac vs. Windows security is really about market share or if it’s just about Microsoft.


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