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Why Has Apple Ported Safari to the PC?

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It seems that my denials of Apple fanboism I made earlier in the week have not had the desired effect. It seems that the Deputy Editor he “doth protest too much” - my esteemed colleagues read my words, turning to me and just saying, ‘Fanboy’. So I’m just going to have to live up to my reputation and discuss another Apple related topic – and just to really go for it, I’m writing it on a Mac mini, which I forgot to declare last time that I had, along with my iPod and iBook.

Although, I don’t really own an iPod anymore. Genius here went and left it in the seat pocket on a plane on the way to a press trip in Spain. I picked up my 5th gen in January ’06 in Las Vegas during CES and it’s been a constant companion ever since, keeping me entertained in the car most days, hooked up to my Alpin 9850Ri. And now it’s gone. As I said to Simon Williams, our weekly printer review guru, who was on the press trip with me, “I feel like I’ve lost an old friend”, which most of you I’m sure will recognise as a echo of what the Doctor said in the 1982 Doctor Who story, The Visitation, after the Terileptil leader destroyed his sonic screwdriver. (You know, sometimes people call me a geek, I really don’t know why). But like the Doctor, who has a new Sonic Screwdriver, I will get a replacement iPod and the slight consolation on its loss will be that I’ll get the new even larger 80GB one that has a brighter screen and better battery life. The Doctor no doubt built himself a new Sonic Screwdriver – I however will have to make do with insurance.

The real reason I want to talk about Apple again though was because it, once again, has created the biggest news story of the week, with the announcment that it was bringing the Safari browser to the PC. The question I want to ask is why? My first thought was, hey Steve, the 90s called, it wants its browser war back. It seemed late in the day for Apple to decide it wanted a piece of that browser action. IE killed Netscape, then Firefox took over from IE, if not in marketshare then at least in common sense share, which is something I’ve just made up.

Jobs himself didn’t really make the reasons clear. In his announcement at WWDC ’07, he said no more than, ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be great to have a larger market share for Safari’, (well something like that) without really giving an explanation. This really got me curious. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the timing must have something to do with the release of the iPhone. It’s been well documented that the iPhone won’t support third party apps – that means that there’s no possibility of people making money by writing applications for the iPhone or of its functionality being enhanced by them – which is a bit of a shame for a smartphone, especially one as groundbreaking as the iPhone.

However, at WWDC, Jobs let developers get a bit closer to the iPhone by announcing that it would support Web 2.0 applications via Ajax. So no SDK for developers, but they can create Mac OS-like Widgets for the iPhone. The iPhone runs Safari but not all developers will be running a Mac with Safari, so by getting Safari on the PC developers will be able to test more easily, which is important in a device that’s going to be aiming for a wide audience. It means that Apple will be able to retain tight control of the iPhone, and maintain the security of its partner networks.

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