A few years ago, when Apple slotted one of the most important pieces of their puzzle firmly into place, they used the line "Hell Froze Over". They were talking, of course, about the release of iTunes for Windows; a software release which arguably set the course for Apple's future endeavors – the huge success of the iPod, the "Switcher" phenomenon, PC Guy vs Mac Guy, and more.
I firmly doubt that Apple would be where they are today, were it not for the historic decision to port iTunes to the Microsoft platform. And they've done it again: Safari has been ported to Windows in the apparent hope that it will mean a greater market share for the browser. It worked before, it might work again.
But Apple's real plan is surely twofold. Firstly, and most obviously, they want to give people a sniff of the sweet Apple scent that's proved so tempting. Windows users can now sample iTunes (an application the Steve Jobs recently said was "many people's favourite application on Windows") along with Safari, and the ever faithful Quicktime. Apple, and Jobs, have proved that iTunes can tempt people away from Windows; time will tell if Safari can achieve the same thing.
How does Safari fare on Windows? See for yourself. It's fast – although perhaps not as fast as Apple would have you believe; pretty – in a minimalist kind of way; and will be instantly familiar to anyone who's used Safari before. It's also a little memory hungry (after a brief browsing session it was cheerfully consuming 200mb on my machine), doesn't support the "back" button on my mouse, and won't let me use control + enter to add "www" and ".com" to a url in the address bar; clearly a little adjustment is needed, but it would be nice if Apple made the transition slightly easier for Windows users. Also, there's no introduction or help screen to point out the "unique" features that Safari offers: you're very much left to your own devices.
Safari is a novel download for now; I'm not prepared to make a call on its suitability as a Firefox or IE challenger on the Windows platform, nor its overall efficiency as a browser; I'm going to suck it and see for a while. It's certainly useful for Windows-based web developers, although it does somewhat remove the justification for having that shiny Mac under your desk…
It's also quite disappointing to say that Safari was the biggest announcement of the keynote. There was no new hardware reveal, and no genuinely exciting new facets of the iPhone or Leopard were uncovered. Leopard is pretty: but we assumed that it would be. The new desktop looks very nice, yet I get the feeling that none of the ten features discussed by Jobs are going to sell new Apple hardware – which is reflected by the drop in their stock price since the keynote.
Is Apple's reality distortion field failing? We shall see. I think for now they've had to divert power away from the main engines; they're trying to get both Leopard and, more immediately, the iPhone shipped with success and that's holding up potential new big hardware launches, and those all important new iPod devices.
Once these two milestones are hit, things should really start to get interesting.