This week is Apple’s annual developer conference. It used to be in San Jose (an easy trip from where I live now) but Steve Jobs prefers The City, so he switched the annual conference from San Jose in April/May to a small corner of Moscone Center in June. The first SF conference (2003) was my last WWDC — I went to most of the WWDC conferences from 1988-2003, and still have many of the old polo shirts.
Today in San Francisco Steve Jobs did his annual WWDC keynote. Tom Krazit of CNET has a good stream of consciousness blog from WWDC. After the expected OS X 10.5 (“Leopard”) demos, the keynote (as reported by Krazit) took an unexpected turn:
11:09--Safari: The Safari Web browser's got about 5 percent market share across the Internet, Jobs says. He'd like to make that number grow. How to make that happen? A version of Safari for Windows.I must say, I didn’t see this one coming: I thought the browser wars were over almost a decade ago. However, in researching her update of IE and Mozilla plans, Mary Jo Foley (ZDNet’s excellent Microsoft blogger) found that Mozilla saw this coming.
11:13--Jobs switches over to a Windows XP window. "This is strange," he jokes. He demonstrates the Windows Safari browsing through various sites, showing off a new tabbing feature. The benchmark we didn't catch is called iBench, and Jobs does a side-by-side comparison of Safari and IE 7 loading a bunch of Web sites. Safari's twice as fast, as you might expect during a WWDC demo. Try it yourself, he says.
11:15--Distribution is the next topic. There are over 500 million downloads of iTunes for Windows out there. Apple's going to have 3 editions of Safari, one that's for Leopard, one for XP, and one for Windows on Tiger. It's a public beta available today on Apple's Web site.
Why did they do it? Here are some possible reasons:
- This causes the open source WebKit library for rendering HTML to be more widely used. Webkit is already available on the Nokia/Symbia S60 platform, while Swift is a struggling effort to bring WebKit to Windows. Raising the Safari/WebKit market share would mean more sites would care about Safari/WebKit compatibility. (For those who want to do first-hand research, the WebKit team is having a drinking party tonight in San Francisco.)
- As the TV ads make clear, the iPhone’s success is highly dependent upon Safari and a user experience comparable to a desktop. So maybe building Safari market share and compatibility has now become crucial.
- Windows-only shops can test for Safari compatibility without buying a Mac.
- As Foley suggested, maybe there are some Safari/iTunes integration opportunities.
- Many of Apple’s recent switchers are still running Windows, either at work or at home. So perhaps Apple is trying to give them a clean, consistent user experience rather than have them rely on Firefox (since IE for Mac is gone).
The key note ended a half hour ago. For those who want the new Safari (Mac or Windows), Apple’s download site is now active.
Photo credit: James Martin/CNET News.com