SAN FRANCISCO—Yes, the colorful new stuff due in Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard,” coming in the fall, was the main topic of Apple CEO Steve Jobs June 11 keynote address to the faithful software vendors (and press hacks) gathered here for the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. Still, Windows also made a surprise appearance at this Mac-centric event.
After a rundown of some 10 new features in Leopard, Jobs told the crowd that there was just “one more thing,” which is a ritual in his keynotes. Todays encores were the iPhone development scheme and a version of Apples Safari browser for Microsoft Windows.
Jobs said Apple wants to boost the market share of its Safari browser, which comprises some 5 percent of Internet users.
“We dream big. We would love Safaris market share to grow,” he said. But how would that be accomplished, he asked the crowd. With more than Mac users, of course, since the total installed base of Mac OS X is 22 million, Jobs related earlier.
The goal, shown in a pie chart in the presentation, appeared to be about 20 percent. In the address, Jobs said that Microsofts Internet Explorer has a 78 percent share and Firefox 15 percent.
Apples first step toward the goal is the beta release June 11 of Safari 3 for Windows XP and Vista, as well as for Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. Safari 3 will come standard with Leopard.
Jobs showed Safari running on Windows XP, pointing out its tabbed interface and built-in Google and Yahoo searching capabilities. He said it is the same technology for both Mac and PC platforms.
“But how are we going to distribute this? I mean, we dont talk to these customers, do we? There are 500K downloads of Firefox a day—what are we going to do? Well, it turns out that there are over a million downloads on iTunes a day … half a billion downloads to Windows machines. We know how to reach these customers, and were going to do exactly that,” he said.
Here is a message we havent heard much from Apple before today (and an odd one to present to an audience of Mac developers). Its the new market reality: Apple is now a significant Windows developer. The iPod, iTunes and QuickTime are “standard” on an increasing share of PCs. And maybe Apples browser will gain some traction among some users, even in the enterprise.
The target is Firefox and the other Windows browsers that have a smaller following than Apples share with the Mac.
In a briefing with eWEEK.com, Brian Croll, senior director of software product marketing, said Safari for Windows will appeal to corporate users looking for an alternative to Internet Explorer thats backed by a company.
“Apple is very heavily committed to it. Safari [3.0] is really fast, a standards-based browser thats elegant and easy to use. People will like it,” Croll said.
On the surface, this move toward Windows appears to be about improving the lot for Mac users—and especially keeping happy the new “switchers,” who have abandoned the PC platform.
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One sore spot with Safari is its sometimes problematic compatibility with the ancient code still used in many places on the Internet. Now, Safari “conforms to Web standards,” as the Apple marketing folks say, but it doesnt sport all the baggage of exceptions code that lets IE deal with the terrible legacy sites.
Most Mac users can come up with a short list of sites that are written specifically for Windows and, beyond that, for IE. So, if Apple can gain market share, sites will make sure to keep Safari and Mac users in mind when deciding on architecture and support for Web 2.0 compliance.
However, one watcher of the Mac industry said the push for a Windows version of Safari is more about the forthcoming iPhone, which will run a slimmed-down version of OS X and the Safari browser.
According to Neil Ticktin, CEO of Xplain, the Westlake Village, Calif., publisher of MacTech, a Mac developer journal, “In order for iPhone customers to have the quality of experience that Apple wants, [Safari] has to have enough market share. Its not about bringing the Apple experience to Windows customers. Jobs said [Apple] wants a bigger browser share—its not like theyre going to get revenue from it.”
Seeding such support around the Web may be an important task for Apple with its new mobile platform. The story around Apple quality and hardware-software integration is understood by the switchers to computing on the Macintosh, and Apple is sending the same message to those purchasing an iPhone.
This same concern for QA can be seen in Apples choice for third-party development for the iPhone.
Before WWDC at a recent industry conference, Jobs said that while Apple was seeking a way for developers to build applications for the iPhone, he didnt want the iPhone to be “one of those phones that crashes a few times a day.”
Instead, Apple will deliver the applications in the Web 2.0 way: as services using the Safari 3 browser as a platform. This opens development to a wider class of coders, opens the delivery to the Web and enables the use of popular Web programming environments.
I didnt get a chance to ask many WWDC attendees, but that must have been a disappointment among the Mac developers.
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