Analysis: So why did Apple release Safari for Windows?
Is it a move for market share, or more money?
One of the most popular ideas online -- though one that doesn't appear to get a lot of support in the analyst community -- is that Apple hopes to use its age-old rival, Microsoft Corp., to boost its revenues.
Offering Safari to Windows users could significantly increase the number of Safari users, and that larger user base could translate into revenue for Apple, because some browser makers have revenue-sharing deals with search engines, says John Gruber, writer of the popular Daring Fireball blog. Search engine companies like Google Inc. reportedly split with browser makers the advertising revenue generated when browser users type search terms in the bar embedded in the browser.
Gruber's suggestion has spread wildly across the Web, with bloggers and mainstream media outlets as far flung as the BBC picking up on the idea.
It's difficult, however, to confirm Gruber's theory.
Google declined to comment on any such arrangements that it might have with browser partners. Mozilla Corp., however, has said that it earns a significant portion of its revenue from the search bar in its browser. In Mozilla's official company blog, Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker wrote last year: "We are very fortunate in that the search feature in Firefox is both appreciated by our users and generates revenue in the tens of millions of dollars."
Firefox comes with Google as the default in the search bar although users can choose among five other options, including Yahoo and Answers.com.
Mozilla didn't respond to questions about how exactly it earns revenue from the search bar. Apple did not reply to questions about potential revenue-sharing arrangements with search providers. Safari users can choose Yahoo or Google to run in the search bar.
Microsoft Corp. doesn't have any kind of compensation deals with search engine providers or other browser makers based either on users who set Windows Live Search as the default search engine in other browsers or based on users who set other search engines as the default in Internet Explorer, a company spokesperson said.
Google could very well have a deal with Apple that's similar to the deal it may have with Mozilla, said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Jupiter Research.
Still, Gartenberg said he doubts that potential revenue from the search bar would be the primary reason why Apple developed Safari for Windows. "Whatever incremental revenue they'd get is almost irrelevant for a company of Apple's size," he said.
Instead, Apple has a stake in making sure that Safari has strong support in the market from users and developers because it is a critical piece of the Mac OS operating system and will serve as the primary application development environment for the iPhone, he said.
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