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Apple’s WWDC Keynote: Hell Freezes Over… AGAIN!

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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.

The second reason for Apple's release of their browser for Windows is likely to be the iPhone. Jobs' WWDC keynote covered three things: Leopard's new features, Safari for Windows, and the iPhone's support for "Ajax and Web 2.0" as its means of extensibility. If the iPhone's version of Safari really is the same as its desktop counterpart, then releasing Safari for Windows essentially provides both Windows and OS X users with the means to create Javascript based applications that should function on the iPhone. Again, time will tell as to how successful this move will be.

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.

Apple's reveal on the iPhone's "third party support" was a real damp squib. Compared with their competition – Windows Mobile, and the various flavours of Symbian – support for Javascript applications seems insubstantial. We've already been told that the iPhone runs a "full" version of Safari on the "real" Internet, so it goes without saying that it will support "web 2.0" applications Javascript, and by extension AJAX.

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.

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  • Safari for Windows is great news for Windows-based web developers. Now, where is IE 7 for Mac?

    I have not really been impressed with the iPhone. With the “Mr. Obvious” announcement that it will run AJAX and Web 2.0 “applications,” I am beginning to wonder.

    Wouldn’t the iPhone have major potential for mobile games? Not if it is as closed door as the current iPod. Look at that *huge* library of third party games out for the iPod. Isn’t that just great.

    So Apple is not going to allow you to install any third party applications on your iPhone, which means running anything via the “real” internet will incur data charges.

    The Leopard showing was nice. I really like the new Finder.

    One thing to keep in mind though, this was a WWDC keynote, not a Macworld keynote.

  • No data charges on the Wi-Fi connection, Ken.

    I used Safari/Win for a day, but I’m using Firefox again now. For me, Safari was so fast I couldn’t believe it was actually done already. Lightning-fast. Strangely fast. But the memory usage was mind-boggling, and I use Firefox bookmark syncing and a few other extensions, so I’ve got to think about whether or not it’s worth switching just for the raw speed.

    Sure looked pretty, though.

  • That fast huh? Well good for them. I will have to install it on my Dell. I have heard from a few Mac friends how it borks things on the Mac, like Widgets, as it replaces the WebKit framework with a new one.