I watched Paul Kedrosky on CNBC yesterday shrug off Apple’s release of Safari for Windows and was quite surprised by his reaction. This is a really big deal for a couple reasons. Yes, as Kedrosky says, the browser war is an old topic and not as sexy as the iPhone story or new Leopard features. But Apple is incredibly shrewd in this move to introduce its Safari web browser to the rest of the computing public.
While most developers were hoping Apple would open up the iPhone to third-party apps, it appears that isn’t going to happen any time soon. Instead, Apple has focused on using the Safari web browser as the development platform of choice.
This makes sense for a few reasons. First, it’s safer for Apple in the short term to not have to worry about dealing with any potential issues third-party application may introduce. This type of restriction is not new. In a way, T-Mobile and Danger have been doing this for years with their Sidekick. Developers wishing to distribute their apps to the Sidekick have to get them approved by Danger and added to the master catalog that can only be accessed inside the device. The rationale is likely the same as Apple’s – we think we have a slick user experience, so let’s make sure others don’t mess it up.
Safari ported to Windows is a brilliant move to expand the base of potential developers to web applications that will work on the iPhone. As of yesterday all web developers, regardless of platform, have the ability to build applications that can work on the iPhone. This removes one additional barrier for the development of a nice ecosystem of apps available for Apple’s phone.
Finally, if web-based applications are the future as many predict, what better way for Apple to play this shift than to make a bigger claim to the browser market? Even without the iPhone aspect of this announcement, I still think the company’s move to increase Safari’s market share beyond 5% makes perfect sense.