Rythie's Blog

Technology and stuff

Safari for Windows

At a fairly otherwise uneventful WWDC this week Apple released a beta version of it's Safari web browser for Windows. Apple claims that it wants to grow Safari's market share.

Even if Safari was to gain mass popularity on Windows I can't see that it would help Apple very much, they couldn't for example introduce adverts like Opera did as this would annoy users and charging for a web browser is almost unthinkable nowadays. Firefox made a rumoured $72m in 2005 from Google by using it as the default search engine, though Apple which has a revenue of around $21bn a year is unlikely to be very interested in this particularly, especially after the browser development and marketing costs have been taken out.

I think the main reason for pushing Safari onto the Windows platform therefore is to create more website compatibility with Safari. At present I imagine that a great number of sites do not work in Safari due to the difficulty of testing a site for Safari compatibility if you don't have a Mac. Introducing Safari for Windows will mostly cure this since I expect most web designers who don't have a Mac use Windows or at least have fairly easy access to a Windows machine. This should already be making a difference with this weekend almost being 'the weekend of Safari fixes for vanity sites'.

Steve Jobs claims that Safari has 5% of the browser market and he wants to get to 15%, currently 2% seems to be a much more realistic estimate at Safari's market share from the sites I looked at. The penetration of Firefox is such that it seems very unlikely that someone starting or redesigning a website now would not make it work in Firefox and generally assume that sites that don't work in Firefox now a due to the design being done several years ago and the company that runs the website does not have anyone to fix the site in house. If Safari can get this magic 15% of browser users the same would happen for Safari in that people wouldn't think of designing a site that didn't work in Safari.

So why is this important? Well of course the Mac needs a browser that works, but if that was the only problem then Apple could have just converted Firefox to be more like a Mac application, or they could support or, more likely, fork the existing Camino project. So that can't be the reason.

Firefox however, is probably too heavy to go on a mobile device, so it's obvious therefore then that the only reason to have Safari as a well supported platform would be for it's use in the iPhone. If Safari works with as many sites as Firefox does now it would be very good for the iPhone, in fact if you think about this for a while it is absolutely essential that the iPhone support virtually every website out there and this is a least part of the plan to do that, if not the whole plan.