A Suggestion for Apple in 2007

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Dear Apple, the first 30 years were only the beginning, or so you say. You’re poised to make HUGE inroads this year, with some sources saying you’re going to claim up to 20% of laptop sales on college campuses. You’re also going to sell a ridiculous number of iPods again, an obscene number of tracks on iTunes, and very likely a substantial number of iPhones and iTVs if, in fact, they show up soon. Let me tell you what you really ought to do then, and quickly: port Safari to Windows.

Read on, I’ll tell you why.

Safari is the native OS X browser. It’s akin to IE in Windows: it’s been preinstalled as the default browser since Panther, and it’s the only bundled browser in Tiger, so almost every Mac user has at least tried it, if only to download Firefox, Camino, Opera, or OmniWeb.

The problem here is that you’re trying to convince people to switch from Windows, which is like a crappy old blanket: it’s got holes in it, it smells a little, the dog peed on it a few times, and it doesn’t even work that well, but it’s familiar and using it is like second nature if only because we’ve been using it so long. Since so much of the home computing experience is using the browser, getting people to feel at home in their most used application is a big step. Combine this with iTunes and you’ve got yourself one hell of a 1-2 punch.

Plus, we already know that your apps can be successfully ported to Windows. iTunes keeps pace on both platforms, and is a large part of the sales pitch you use: “Know iTunes? Then you know a Mac.” Quicktime codecs and the player itself are well synced. iDisks are compatible with Windows, iPod updaters and Apple Software Update run, so we know your engineers can program for the platform. I don’t think any of these are written in Cocoa like Safari, but I’m sure your engineers can make this happen if they were motivated to do so.

How about this: people don’t write websites for Safari. Safari’s Webkit is a branded version of Webcore, which is based on KHTML, the rendering engine for KDE’s Konquerer. But it’s only “based” on it, it’s not the same. There are changes to Webcore that haven’t been backported, so they aren’t completely compatible. As such, it’s not easy to design or test webpages to work well in Safari with direct access to a Mac. You don’t provide web developers any sort of VMWare or Virtual PC image they could use, so they just have to assume things work. If your browser is considered a second class citizen, then your whole OS suffers from obscurity syndrome.

Thus is the gist of this piece: by running Safari on Windows, you can not only coerce more web developers into providing Safari compatibility, and therefore be a true presence, rather than a fringe app, but you can also introduce users to the Mac experience even just a little more. Plus, now that IE 7 has been totally reconfigured and is once again foreign to users, you have a chance to introduce users who aren’t planning on upgrading the Vista just yet to Safari and Macs, and possibly even make a play to be their next purchase, rather than a tired, old, unexciting PC.

Maybe it’s making a leap of faith, and yes, the browser market is one where making a noticeable entrance will be challenging, but the less of a jump into the deep end buying a Mac is, the easier it is to make your Apple brand accessible, available, and not scary. The best way to start? Safari on Windows.

15 comments

  1. never gonna happen. apple has no chance of competing against internet explorer and firefox. what good is safari on win if nobody uses it?

  2. never gonna happen. apple has no chance of competing against internet explorer and firefox. what good is safari on win if nobody uses it?

    First of all, web developers WILL use it. I test my code on IE, FF, Safari, and Opera. That’s a start. It’s nice for a Mac user to not be told they must upgrade to IE 6 or greater when they visit their bank’s website.

    Secondly, eventually, people WILL use it. People who use Macs at home will use it at work. People who don’t like the uncustomiable look of IE7 might try it. People who are just interested in something different too.

    I’d say those make a convincing case.

  3. I would like to see Safari on Windows too. Until now I never thought about what kind of effect it would have. I don’t think they will release it because I think there are many things they could do to cater to CURRENT Apple customers first, but if it came out I would use it.

  4. Unless your assertion is that Apple has a limited development staff, there’s no reason why this couldn’t be another group of developers and therefore, not effect Apple’s current customers at all.

  5. Isn’t the iTunes Music Store HTML. I would bet iTunes for windows already uses WebCore to display the Music Store and if thats the case its already ported and wouldn’t take much more to finish porting safari.

  6. It’s such a flawed theory I hardly know where to begin.

    The more Mac applications are available on Windows, the less reason to switch. iTunes makes sense to port to Windows because it translates into iPod and Store sales. Quicktime makes sense because it’s part of iTunes and because Windows users (mostly video editors) will buy the Pro version to do encoding.

    Since every other major browser is free, they’d have a hard time charging for Safari. Only the hardcore Apple lovers would buy it, and charging makes it less likely developers would buy it to test with. So, Safari only translates into money for Apple if a user switches, and if I already have iTunes, Quicktime, and Safari on my PC for free, I’d have to REALLY love Apple to buy a whole new machine just to use the Mac versions of iTunes, Quicktime, and Safari.

  7. The more Mac applications are available on Windows, the less reason to switch.

    I don’t see it that way. I see it as the less daunting the switch becomes. Running Mac apps on Windows is not the “best of both worlds” you’re pretending it would be.

    Since every other major browser is free, they’d have a hard time charging for Safari.

    Who said anything about charging? I would never pay for Safari. I don’t even use it on Mac.

    if I already have iTunes, Quicktime, and Safari on my PC for free, I’d have to REALLY love Apple to buy a whole new machine just to use the Mac versions of iTunes, Quicktime, and Safari.

    Believe me, very few people are switching because of iTunes, Quicktime, or Safari. No one switches for iTunes, they already have it on Windows! They might switch iLife. Or the eye candy of the system. for You make it out like those are the draw! The draw is *usually* one of two things:

    1. The motivation to get OFF of Windows, which is a maintenance nightmare and still, even with XP, is tough to keep spyware free for the *average* user. Windows XP degrades over time as the registry bloats up and the file hierarchy gets littered with crap.

    2. People who want the Mac glitz and the enjoyment of the OS X. Safari is just a means to an end. It’s not even that great. But it’s certainly nice to be able to feel at home on a new platform. That’s what Safari brings. It eases the transition for switchers.

    My friend Keith bought a Mac and returned it because it was so foreign. If he knew more about the platform and wasn’t so lost, he might have kept it.

    In short, I think your theory is based on an assumption that Safari is a draw, rather than a simple tool. It’s marketing. It’s no different than playing an ad on TV. You don’t recoup the cost directly, but rather, in consumer mindshare.

  8. AFAIK, even if the “porting” of Safari to Windowds is “perfect”, it won’t be a REAL test platform for web applications on Mac OS X.
    You must test the site with the browser in the operating system.
    Of course, it will be better than no testing.

  9. I doubt that it will happen as I don’t think there will be any real economic benefits to Apple to doing so. I used to be GM of Netscape and I found that there is only room in the public’s mind for a default browser, and one browser alternative. Safari would find itself fighting with Firefox for share instead of fighting with IE. If you’re interested, I blog more in detail about it at:
    lsvp.wordpress.com/2007/01/14/safari-for-windows-and-the-power-of-the-default/

  10. i hope none you genius’s is familiar with the term “running native” in the correct context and the implication on all posts on this subject, if you are then why was Mr.Common sense unable to prevent you wasting your time!

  11. So, if you try to install safari into windows, will there be an effect like: will your OS crash down or will it just display a message that you cannot install this software to this operating system? I really want to try it out. Unfortunately I have a bad feeling about this.

  12. I still don’t agree with the logic in the article, but I will admit to being wrong in thinking Apple would never release Safari for Windows.

  13. I still don’t agree with the logic in the article, but I will admit to being wrong in thinking Apple would never release Safari for Windows.

    Well, you’d be right then, because the logic is only partly right. The primary reason for Safari/Win is obviously iPhone development. But certainly that’s an extension of web devs needing access to the Safari rendering engine, which was my main point.

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