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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 June 2007, 16:02 GMT 17:02 UK
Safari crosses software divide
By Jane Wakefield
Technology reporter, BBC News

Steve Jobs with the iPhone
Is iPhone's imminent launch behind the decision?
Apple's surprise announcement of a Windows version of Safari has led to inevitable questions about its motives in reigniting the browser war.

For some, the move is simply an essential element to its forthcoming iPhone launch, while others see it as a more aggressive move for browser market share or even the launch-pad for a raft of upcoming Apple software.

The fact that Apple chief executive Steve Jobs chose to announce the move at an Apple Developer's conference indicates that the focus is on web development.

"The more Safari users there are, the better support for Safari there will be from web developers. As it gets more popular, so it becomes essential that any new web application supports for Safari from day one," commented John Gruber on his blog Daring Fireball.

But perhaps, with its iPhone due to be launched at the end of the month, the key motivation for a Windows-compatible Safari is to make it easier for Windows-based web developers to write applications for that device.

"Apple needs to make sure that websites work with Safari. It is at the heart of its iPhone and probably for Apple TV, so it's got to make sure that websites work with it," said Ian Fogg, an analyst with Jupiter Research.

Distribution channel

I don't see it as a betrayal of all things Mac. Windows users are desperate for Apple to provide some decent software
Graham Barlow, MacFormat

But this pragmatic piece of planning could be just one strand in a long-term strategy at Apple's HQ, thinks Mr Fogg.

"It could be that they are looking at extending their bridgehead on the Windows platform," he said.

Anyone downloading the free browser can choose to have it bundled with Apple's video software QuickTime or its Bonjour service, which is designed to make home networking simpler.

"Potentially Apple could be using it as a distribution channel for new software," said Mr Fogg.

There is also a potential revenue stream coming to Apple from having a wider Safari user-base.

Safari, in common with other browsers, earns money for Apple every time a user searches Google via the integrated search button on the browser's toolbar.

Google pays a share of ad revenue to Apple. According to one report, Firefox's developer the Mozilla Foundation earned over $50m in search engine ad revenue in 2005, mostly from Google.

MacFormat editor Graham Barlow believes the need for iPhone applications was the driving force for the shift to Windows but thinks any market share Apple can grab from Microsoft along the way will be a bonus, not just for the firm, but for its hardcore base of fans.

"I don't see it as a betrayal of all things Mac. Windows users are desperate for Apple to provide some decent software," he said.

Up until now, Safari has captured just 5% of the browser market, while Microsoft's Internet Explorer accounts for 78%, and rival Firefox 15%.

User opinion

Steve Jobs launching Safari on Windows
Steve Jobs had big claims for Safari but what do users think?

For users though, the most important question is whether it is an improvement on existing browsers available to them and, judging by e-mails to the BBC News website, the opinion was mixed.

"I'm running Safari 3 Beta and whooosh, it runs extremely fast. After a few hours now it is stable too. Site incompatibility not an issue either," commented Jamie Kelly.

Others said they didn't notice any great improvements on existing browser speeds while Jon from Penarth had a particular reason for seeing Microsoft's browser stay on top.

"As far as I'm concerned, the longer Internet Explorer maintains its overwhelming majority then all the better. Hackers will continue to concentrate on exploiting that while I can happily use my comparatively-secure Firefox browser at home," he said.

Some readers had trouble using Safari.

"On a fairly clean Windows XP machine it installed easily, went to home page and displayed pictures OK, but no text anywhere. I could not type into the address bar and then it crashed. Same symptoms after reboot so have now removed, which is a pity because it looked nice," said Julian Horn.

And, for one group of surfers, Safari may not be the right solution.

"Blind and visually impaired users can forget it: Safari for Windows is completely inaccessible for screen readers," pointed out Dave Harding.

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