You gotta love Apple. Macs are cool, iPods are cool, iTunes is cool (despite it’s ‘proprietary’ nature), the Mac OS is stylish and innovative… and Apple provide cyber-cafe services for loafing foreign students. Okay, it’s actually the Apple Store, but it’s always full of loafing foreign students checking their e-mail. So if you wanted to actually look at a Mac notebook before buying one, you’d have to shove a loafing foreign student out of the way.

SafariMark this day, for it heralds the announcement of Apple’s Safari web browser being made available for Microsoft Windows. Which leads us to the important question…

Why?

Apple are good at what they’re good at – making stylish technology that people want. Success comes in various shapes and degrees for Apple. Take the Mac in it’s various guises… it’s market share compared to Windows is small, but it is growing (both in the home and enterprise markets). Apple are in a good place with the Mac. Some people who use Windows at work are choosing Macs for home. They’re stylish but also very usable and functional (I mean the Apple Macs, not the people… although some may be).

Take the iPod. Millions have. Compared to the iPod, Microsoft’s Zune has been an abject failure. Let me paraphrase a section of an entry I made on my internal blog in December last year. At the point where Central Park meets New York’s 5th Avenue, Apple have opened a new store. It’s about the size of the ground floor of the London store, but they’ve made better use of the space. Let’s just say the place was packed with people, the iPods were flying off the shelves, and the volume of third-party offerings to go with the iPods has never been more evident to me. As if to emphasise that fact, our hotel room boasted a clock-radio with an integrated iPod dock.

And then there’s the Zune, Microsoft’s iPod killer…

I saw two stores selling the Zune. One was the Virgin store at Times Square. Again, this store was packed to the rafters with shoppers, but the Zune wasn’t gathering much attention. In fact if it hadn’t been for me having a fiddle with the pseudo-click-wheel, the Zune display would have been a very lonely place. I also read somewhere that in the run-up to Christmas 2006 Apple sold ten times more spare chargers for iPods than Microsoft sold Zunes. So, we’ll allow Apple to chalk the points up on that front.

iPhone? The jury has to be out until they ship it. Granted it looks very nice, and for some people that will be a good enough reason to stand in a queue.

Anyway, I digress, back to Safari for Windows. Many Mac users tell me that Firefox for the Mac is a better browser than Safari, so why do Apple think that Safari for Windows is a great idea? I look at Safari for Windows and it lacks the toolbar I use every minute in Firefox. They’ve tried to make it look like a Mac application, but it runs on Windows… so why is making it look like a Mac application a good idea? That’s just going to confuse people. Perhaps Apple are thinking “all those people who use Macs at home, they have to use Windows at work so let’s give them a familiar browser”. Nice idea, but the problem is that the companies employing these people don’t want another browser on the desktop.

The Apple web site lists “12 reasons you’ll love Safari”. #1 is “Blazing Performance” – yes, actually it does perform well, but when pages load in under two seconds it’s hard to tell whether it is actually 1.6 times faster than Firefox. It feels like it’s fast, so I’m fine with that claim. Just about all of the other reasons are things I already have in Firefox (apart from the rather nifty “Resizable Text Fields”).

I’m sure Apple have other motives. It’s surely not a coincidence that the iPhone hits the shops soon and uses – guess what – Safari as it’s native browser. More Safari users equals more reasons for developers to do their thing.

As much as I’d love to see Apple trounce Microsoft, I think that Firefox has a far better chance of doing that in the browser stakes. Apple, stick to what you do best – Macs, iPods, cool stuff… don’t try to fight Microsoft in their own back yard.

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