Why Safari?

The video demos of new features in OS X Leopard are pretty chill — OK, more than chill — some of them are downright amazing. But I’m trying to wrap my head around the release of Safari for Windows.

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.

13 Replies to “Why Safari?”

  1. Holy frijole, that’s totally it.

    My somewhat-informed understanding is that Apple is currently generating about $2 million per month from Safari’s Google integration. That’s $25 million per year. If Safari for Windows is even moderately successful, it’s easy to see how that might grow to $100 million per year or more.

    I always thought there must be a kickback relationship going there, had no idea it was that profitable. Amazing.

    Well, I guess that’s the other shoe :)

  2. My guess is that for some reason they needed Webkit as part of the iPhone desktop experience, and once they had it ported to Windows they figured they might as well port the window dressing…

  3. There’s Gruber’s commentary. I’m also in agreement with Sean – iTunes and iPhone both likely want WebKit available (in fact, one wonders how much of it is already in iTunes for Windows). If you already have it mostly ported, might as well add interface to make it a full player and garner that ad revenue…

  4. Some Flickr folk are interested in Safari because it’s color profile aware. Also, I’m sure that there are more than a few Firefox users that aren’t using extensions at all so it’s possible that Apple may leach a few users there.

    It’ll be interesting how many of those “one million downloads of iTunes a day” keep Safari around.

  5. I wonder two things:

    1) How many of the security issues in Safari 3 have to do with new code (i.e. issues that pertain equally to the Mac and Win 3.0 versions), and that might not be present in Safari 2/Mac).

    2) How many of the issues being found in the Win version pertain to it running on Windows, and might not be issues at all when running on OS X.

  6. In addition to all the arguments being thrown around, what’s Apple’s long term plans? Steve thinks ahead. Case example, OS X for intel. That was a long time in the making. Is Apple setting the groundwork for something that isn’t on the radar yet? Given the moves towards “the network is the machine” having a platform independant browser is important…

  7. @Gilbert: I’m betting on Apple releasing Cocoa for Windows thus opening the way to “write-once-cross-compile” for instant multi-platform support and the only way to do that is to use Xcode “the best way to develop applications ever” on a Mac.

  8. @Tyler: That’s an interesting idea. I think it is certainly likely. There are a lot of NeXT ideas that Jobs seems to be keeping in his back pocket — waiting for the right time to reintroduce them to the world. Cocoa’s crossplatform transition has yet to make an appearance. But, how does Safari fit into the pattern? Are you saying that Apple has moved iTunes for windows and Safari to a hidden cross platform version of Cocoa? If so, interesting…

  9. @Gilbert: Well, it’s just my wild and crazy guess but wouldn’t it be cool if they did that? That aptly named C:\Program Files\Safari\CoreFoundation.dll sure gets the gears turning.

  10. I’m running hot and cold. As far as Apple’s motivation goes I don’t really care. I’m curious.

    I rely on some Firefox plug-ins but also still use IE occasionally. Both occasionally cause me issues and problems so I welcome alternatives. I tend to push things to extremes when I’m doing research online by opening dozens and dozens of pages in tabs then from search results then working through them.

    On first test on one box I like the speed. It rocks. It seems to work ok with any site I tested aside from Google Books. No show in the books results viewing window, which is probably something to do with inlined PDFs.

    Overall I was pleased enough to install it on my primary laptop.

    Weirdness on the laptop even though it meets specs. No URL displayed in the URL box, and I can’t even type in the box. Chunks of pages don’t load, and I can’t get far from the start page without any ability to enter a URL. Strange.

  11. Mal, try visiting this page in Safari, IE, and FF to see Safari’s support for color profiles in action.

    I tried Safari/Win for the first time today. Not an extensive test, but visited a few sites and it was far from the steaming pile of junk I referred to it as above.

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