For his traditional last-minute surprise near the end of the Worldwide Developers Conference keynote today, Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs announced that the company is releasing a beta of its Safari browser that runs on the rival Windows operating system.
"We would love to grow Safari's market share," said Jobs, just over an hour into his presentation. "But how are we going to do that? To do that, we're going to have to create a version of Safari that runs on Windows ... and that's exactly what we have done." According to the most recent numbers from metrics vendor Net Applications, Safari has less than 5% of the market, compared with Internet Explorer's 78.7% and Firefox's 14.5%.
In a brief pitch, Jobs claimed that the beta of Safari 3 is more than twice as fast as Internet Explorer on Windows XP, and 1.6 times faster than Firefox. "What we've got here is the most innovative browser in the world, and the fastest browser on Windows," said Jobs, according to a transcript posted to the Engadget Web site as the keynote unfolded.
Apple made the Windows public beta of Safari 3 available on its Web site immediately after the keynote address concluded. It runs on either Windows XP or Windows Vista. The Mac version requires Mac OS X 10.4.9 or later.
Users pounced on the announcement in comments to blogs that were posting commentary in near real time from WWDC. "The 'one more thing' is Safari on Windows? Lame," said VoxMatt on Engadget. Others, however, speculated that there was method behind the madness. "Safari for Windows is probably for people developing apps for iPhone," said a user identified as ttagawa on the same blog. "Since iPhone uses Safari, Windows developers need some way of testing their apps."
In fact, as soon as he wrapped up his Safari for Windows talk, Jobs launched into the iPhone. Although Apple will not provide a software development kit for the new phone, developers will be able to write Web 2.0-like applications that run over the Internet and display on the iPhone's embedded Safari.
"We have been trying to come up with a solution to expand the capabilities of the iPhone so developers can write great apps for it but keep the iPhone secure," said Jobs, alluding to comments he made last week when he said security concerns precluded opening the phone to third-party software. "And we've come up with ... an innovative new way to create applications for mobile devices. It's all based on the fact that we have the full Safari engine in the iPhone."
The final version of Safari 3 will be included in Mac OS X 10.5, a.k.a. Leopard, when it's released in October. It will also be posted as a free download for Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) and Windows at the same time.