Windows

Sanity check: Is Apple really trying to revolutionize mobile apps with its iPhone-Safari strategy?


Safari logoApple has released Safari for Windows. I understand that the iPhone runs a full version of Safari and Apple wants to use Safari as a platform to build Web 2.0 applications as software add-ons (instead of releasing an iPhone SDK to developers). And since the iPhone (like the iPod) will likely be in the hands of more Windows users than Mac users, Apple needs Safari to have a footprint in the Windows world. I get it. The problem is that Safari in Mac OS X is not that great, so why would Windows users want to switch to Safari? And what is Apple really doing with its iPhone/Safari strategy?

Issues with Safari

My regular machine is a ThinkPad running Windows XP, but I also regularly use a MacBook Pro and from the time I started using the Mac at the beginning of 2007, I quickly ditched Safari for Firefox and Flock (a spin off of Firefox that's even better than the original).

Here's why I don't like Safari in OS X:

  • The interface is not very customizable.
  • It's not as easy to work with tabs and I use tabs a lot. I usually put a New Tab button on my browser toolbar, but Safari doesn't allow that.
  • It doesn't have a Spell Check button on the toolbar like Flock. Safari has a built-in spell check feature, but you have to navigate the Edit menu to get to it.
  • Safari is ugly, especially by Apple standards. It looks like a throwback to Netscape and Mozilla from 1996.

The one thing I do like about Safari in Mac OS X is that it loads pages pretty fast. Along with Flock, it's one of the fastest browsers I've used. However, the lack of Spell Check and New Tab buttons on the toolbar slows me down in my daily work. Also, there was a report from Wired yesterday that the first beta of Safari is slower than IE and Firefox in Windows.

Safari on Windows

The screenshot below is part of TechRepublic's gallery of the Safari 3.0 Beta for Windows.

Safari for Windows

Sanity check

By releasing Safari on Windows, Apple wants to gain Web browser momentum to turn Safari into a legitimate Web 2.0 platform.

First, if it hopes to accomplish that, it needs to make Safari better and more usable -- on both Mac and Windows.

Second, I'm still trying to figure out whether Apple simply doesn't want to deal with the implications of releasing an SDK for iPhone (and thinks iPhone doesn't really need a lot of help from partners) and so it's just telling developers to do their add-ons as Web apps, or whether Apple is truly committed to changing the mobile software landscape by circumventing the SDK process and forcing partners to make a bold move with Web 2.0 and AJAX-powered apps.

The latter is essentially what Apple wants us to believe, but the former could still be closer to the truth. This iPhone/Safari strategy either shows that Apple is primarily going it alone as usual or is ready to break new ground in allowing partners to extend one of its key product lines. I'm looking to see how much Apple works to catalyze partners into developing iPhone apps and how many good apps come out for the iPhone beyond the ones developed by Apple.

Your take?

What direction do you think Apple is taking with this iPhone/Safari strategy? How do you feel about Safari as a Web browser? Join the discussion.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

9 comments
pevasprings
pevasprings

In my experience Safari is pretty zippy and a lot faster than Firefox (which I like as well). What I like about Safari is the speed and its clean interface and the lack of bloatware that we find in Firefox. What one finds ugly is a matter of taste and not quality. There are plenty of add-ins in the Mac community to customize Safari and turn it into bloatware as well. But... I have no need for it :-) And I'm not too lazy to turn on the spellchecker either. Pete.

TechExec2
TechExec2

. [b]What direction is Apple going with iPhone?[/b] Simply put: For people who buy handheld devices, the iPhone is a must-have. Apple has a winner (assuming no serious missteps come to light). On paper, it's the best convergence device I've ever seen: ** Revolutionary mobile phone and 2 MegaPix camera. ** Revolutionary Internet device and client for mobile Web 2.0 applications. ** Best video and audio iPod ever. Extends the iPod+iTunes franchise and further entrenches Apple's iTunes as THE way the world gets its digital music, digital video, and digital photographs. ** Full-function PDA. [b]No SDK for iPhone?[/b] I think the name is consistent with the lack of an SDK. It's called the "iPhone" (implies a device that "just works"), not the "PocketMac" (device that you program and fiddle with). Personally, as a phone user, I'm more likely to buy one because of this (I want such a device to "just work"). Apple doesn't need native 3rd party applications running on the iPhone for the product to be successful. In its day, the Palm handheld's success was due to its integrated functionality, not 3rd party apps. Microsoft Pocket PC's lack of mass appeal is due to Microsoft's many mistakes, not 3rd party app support. Good example: Sync problems. Palm Pilots and iPods sync first time every time. Apple is not trying to have the iPhone directly compete with PocketPC (a failed business model). 3rd party applications (and malware) can weaken the security of the iPhone and easily destroy customer confidence in the platform. Not providing an SDK helps make the platform more secure. That said, I won't be surprised if it is broken into someday. [b]Safari[/b] I like Safari's speed. But, as a pure browser, I prefer Firefox over Safari. Even so, Safari gets better with each release. Adding Windows support greatly enhances its appeal. But, it really must have Linux support for me. I don't see Apple adding Linux support for any of its products any time soon. Apple wants to draw Windows users to the Mac, not to Linux on the X86 PC. So, probably no Safari, no QuickTime, no iTunes, no iPhone, no iPod on Linux. I think it is more likely that Apple will release Mac OS X for the X86 PC before we see any Linux support. And, I don't think we'll see Mac OS X for the X86 PC so long as the Mac itself continues to sell well. It makes sense for Apple to use its own browser for iPhone Web 2.0 apps rather than partner with a 3rd party (e.g. Mozilla Firefox, Adobe Flash+Flex, Microsoft Silverlight). These apps will be written once and run on Windows, Mac, and iPhone, all without any 3rd party "help".

dhp
dhp

Who needs a New Tab button in Safari's toolbar? The keyboard shortcut Command-T opens a new tab! Also, if you Control-click on a hyperlink, you can choose from a drop-down menu to open the link in a new tab.

zal
zal

Safari has a Google window. Google needs to counter msn in the Windows world.

Snowman74
Snowman74

It's like their IPod once again Apple wants to rule the market. You buy an IPod and have to use ITunes (given Ipods are lovely) I just don't like the fact that you're locked into mainly one source for your music. Now they are releasing this "revolutionary" phone and look you have to use apple proprietary software. I don't think this us going to work as well for them, the market is already established (well sort of anyways). I just heard that you have to use ITunes with it as well. I don't even like the phone that much, the one I have the screen gets all gunky when I use it, just imagine how nasty this one can get. Well now that I've wasted everyone's time I'm going back to my corner.

DanLM
DanLM

I was doing some work on a MAC G4 running OS X and was using Safari for research at the same time. CVS, Java, and a few other installs. Both going to Apple's web site and others, I found Safari to be slowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww in loading. Actually didn't load some pages. I also here others here have problems with Safari also. Can't get to specific pages or very slow response. Most everyone has switched here at work to FireFox. We are a publishing firm, so there are alot of Mac's here. Could it be our installs, who knows. Could it be our network. I would say yes, but FireFox has no issues. So, who knows. Personally, I don't like Safari because of my experience here. Dan

Gast?n Nusimovich
Gast?n Nusimovich

Reason 1: Steve Jobs 2.0 is still Steve Jobs (check this other post of mine on a related question http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-6230-0.html?forumID=102&threadID=226029&messageID=2256064 ) Reason 2: The iPhone business model is in line with the Google Business Model of Software As A Service, or Web Hosted Software instead of locally hosted SW, which happens to be more like the Windows Business Model. These two reasons could be consistent (at least, for Steve Jobs, I mean).

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

the fact that I was using Safari on a MacBook Pro with a Core 2 Duo processor and 2 GB of RAM. Everything is fast on there, but Safari is among the fastest of the browsers. That being said, there are still some sites that it chokes on and gets slow. That's one of the reasons that I switched to Firefox (and Flock).

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