Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Reason for Safari on Windows

So, Apple announced on Monday that their Safari web browser is now available on Windows. Of the many articles I've read about this so far, most of their authors assume that this is a move to get some kind of Safari-halo-effect where people love Safari so much that they buy macs. Those authors are smoking crack.

As many are finding out, Safari isn't the world's greatest browser. It's not the worst either but it's not the best. There are better browsers for both Windows and MacOS than safari. I refuse to believe that Apple is stupid enough to believe that there will be any significant halo-effect from Safari. There must be another reason for this release.

So why do I, the all-knowing super genius, think that Apple released Safari for Windows? What's Apple's top secret motive? Well, get this: Apple is trying to increase Safari's browser market share.

Shocking, isn't it?

"But, but, but the browser wars are over!" you scream.

Well, yes and no. During the browser wars Microsoft introduced a lot of non-standard crap to Internet Explorer, both in proprietary extra-features and non-standard rendering.

Because of this, many websites were designed for Internet Explorer and broke when viewed with other browsers. With the rise in popularity of Firefox, now many websites are designed for both Internet Explorer and Firefox and brake (mostly to a lesser degree) when viewed with other browsers.

Safari for Windows is meant to increase Safari's market share so that Safari doesn't get left out of the web-development model. Presumably, Apple wants to have some say in the future of the web.

When viewed this way, some amount of success is almost guaranteed. Most Mac users use Macs at home and Windows in their jobs. Now they can run the same browser at work that they do at home. Apple is probably figuring that 10% to 40% of Safari users will find a way to run it at work and their browser share will increase accordingly. If they get new users from windows only folks, even better.

Yet, for this answer to make sense, one question remains to be answered. Why does Apple still have its own browser anyway?

WebKit seems to be the answer to that one. WebKit, which is the brains that makes Safari go, is a browser engine and framework which allows you to plug the web into your programs. Examples of where Apple has done this are iTunes and MacOSX's Dashboard feature. It also powers the iPhone's web browser as well as Nokia's Web Browser for S60.

It seems that WebKit is critical to Apple's big-picture web strategy. But it will be substantially less useful for them if it can't view the world's most popular websites. Given the history of Apple's other browsers and engines, this makes even more sense. (e.g.Cyberdog)

So, Safari on Windows is a ploy to expand Safari's market share and thereby ensure WebKit's continued usefulness. Dare I say, Q.E.D.?


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