With iTunes for Windows, it was a slam dunk – you can’t sell iPods and tracks to people who can’t reach your platform. But with Safari, it’s not so clear cut. What are they selling? Ostensibly, it’s about giving Windows developers access to the browser that will be running on the iPhone. But I’m not buying that that’s the whole reason. Developers are just too small an audience to warrant the work it must have taken to do the port, and to support it going forward.
There’s the old “gateway drug” argument – give Windows users enough tastes of Mac elegance – and in this case a faster browser than anything available on Windows right now (Apple claims Safari 3 is twice as fast as Internet Explorer 7 on Windows, and 1.6 times faster than Firefox 2) – and eventually they’ll wander over to take a closer look at the whole enchilada*. But how many Windows users are going to care? Those who care enough about security and extensibility to try another browser are already using FireFox, and Safari doesn’t have FF’s thriving plugin landscape going for it. Speed alone isn’t going to cut it.
So… they’re going to end up with a tiny percentage of developers and geeks running Safari on Windows. And this benefits Apple how? Maybe I’m wrong – maybe the need to provide a platform for Windows iPhone developers is reason enough, but somehow that doesn’t ring true. I think there’s another shoe ready to drop, lurking stage left.
* Update: I wrote that bit about “elegance” before seeing any reviews of Safari/Win after it was released into the wild. Now that the opinions are starting to roll in, I think it’s safe to say that this beta was released long before it should have been. By all accounts, Safari/Win so far appears to be a steaming pile of $%$%!@ with little to recommend it.