Apple's Steve Jobs yesterday announced beta versions of the latest Safari web browser, which will, for the first time, also run on Windows PCs, during the company's annual developers' conference in San Francisco, California.
Safari 3 for Windows is Apple's bid to boost its current browser market share. "We would love for Safari's market share to grow substantially," Jobs said. "But how are we going to distribute [Safari 3]? There are 500 000 downloads of Firefox a day. Well, turns out there are over 1 million downloads of iTunes a day. There have been over half a billion downloads of iTunes to Windows machines and we know how to reach these customers and we are going to do just that."
The real Jobs said PC users would switch to Safari because it is twice as fast as Internet Explorer and faster too than Firefox. He gave a couple of demos and pointed to HTML performance and Java script speed comparisons on Windows XP from third-party tester iBench.
Currently, Safari has 5% of the browser market, according to Jobs, while Microsoft's Internet Explorer has 78,7%, Firefox 14,5% and other browsers, such as Opera, make up the rest.
Safari 3 beta is available from Apple's website for Mac OS X Tiger and Windows XP. When Leopard, Apple's forthcoming operating system, launches in October a version for Vista also will be available.
Safari also will play a starring role on the iPhone, Apple's combo smartphone and iPod, which will ship 29 June, Jobs announced. Because the device will have a full Safari engine, devs can write Web 2.0 and Ajax applications for Macs and PCs running Mac OS X "that look exactly and behave exactly like applications on the iPhone," Jobs said. "And these applications can integrate perfectly with iPhone services. They can make a call, send mail, look up a location on Google Maps. After you write them, you have instant distribution ... just put them on your Internet service."
Those apps can be updated by changing the code on their servers, he added. "And they run securely on the iPhone so they do not compromise its reliability," he said.
"No SDK is required," Jobs said. "You have got everything you need using the most modern web standards."
Jobs spent most of his keynote talking up 10 new features of Apple's forthcoming Leopard operating system, which was supposed to ship in the spring, but was pushed back to October so that Apple could meet its iPhone late-June release date.
Leopard, the sixth major release of OS X, will retail for $129 and will boast 300 features, of which Jobs detailed 10. Among them is a new Finder, which has a notable new feature called Shared. It enables networked Mac users to access and share the contents of each other's computers. Jobs did not mention it, but this is a potential boon for business users. It also means you also can remotely access documents from your own or others' desktop computers via .Mac, Apple's online service. Shared works for Windows machines also.
Leopard also gives OS X better video conferencing capabilities, by giving iChat users the ability to share files and video online during a chat session. And the OS will ship with Apple's data recovery program, called Time Machine, which can automatically back up contents to a hard drive or network server.
Also, Leopard is 64-bit 'top to bottom', Jobs said. "Not only does it have 64-bit underpinnings in Unix, but we have taken them all the way up to Cocoa.
It is really the first time 64-bit goes mainstream in the PC."
He said Apple was seeing demand for 64-bit computing not just in the scientific computational segments, but also in professional arts. "Please remember that almost every computer we ship is 64-bit capable," he said to the developers. "So this is going to run great on almost every Mac we ship."
Leopard will sport a new-look desktop, which notably boasted a feature called Stacks that collates documents in the dock for rapid access to their contents. Clicking on a Stack reveals those documents, in either a vertical fan or grid format. Users then click on any document to run it.
There also is a new Downloads folder that collects and redirects content downloaded from the Internet or e-mail, which can be accessed in the same was as Stacks. Both features are designed to clean up the look of the desktop, which with Leopard will automatically display a wallpaper of blades of grass (nobody uses the usual blue pattern, Jobs said.) Another nifty Finder feature is what is called Cover Flow, which essentially gives an actual image of documents so users can cycle through the pages or slides in a PDF, or play video or applications without having to open them.
A separate new feature, called Quick Look, lets users instantly preview files from the desktop without having to open applications.
Using the space bar, users also can view pages within documents, including Excel spreadsheets or video.
And Boot Camp, which launched in March 2006, will be built into Leopard. It enables Mac OS users to run Windows XP and Vista at native speeds.
Having a version of Safari for Windows may be more appealing than Firefox more to enterprise IT departments that seek an alternative to Internet Explorer but are wary of open source. But it will be iPhone, not enterprise, users that likely will drive any spike in Safari's usage.
Interesting that Apple is relying on the same company it loves to mock to grow its browser share. The conference, Apple's largest ever with more than 5000 developers in attendance, opened with a video showing the protagonists from its TV ad campaign. The dowdy-looking actor who portrays a PC walks onscreen impersonating Jobs (including his signature black mockneck, blue jeans and sneakers) and announcing the company is closing in the face of Apple. "I am shutting down all of Apple," the actor quipped. "I had no choice.
Vista's been selling tens of dozens of copies."
It was funny at the start of the show, when the anticipation even in the media box was fervid. However, when it turned out that Jobs' characteristic "And one more thing ..." slide was Safari on Windows, the disappointment of the devs was almost palpable.