This morning I wondered if I'd been a little harsh on Apple's latest attempt to "Wow!" Windows users over to Mac. After all, Safari is just in beta and we should all be kind to projects in beta. But when I discovered that Leander Kahney of the Cult of Macintosh had yesterday come out with pretty much the same assessment of Safari for Windows that I did, I'm now wondering whether I wasn't harsh enough on Apple's latest offering.
Here's Kahney summing up Safari:
Safari sucks. A lot of Mac users won't run the browser (I'm one of them), so why would anyone run it on Windows?
On my Mac, Safari is buggy and unreliable. It's always crashing, and it doesn't offer basic features like remembering all the tabs you have open after you quit (or more likely, after it crashes). Until now, it didn't even warn you before closing multiple tabs, although the new version of Safari fixes this.
Firefox is getting a little bloated these days, but it's a better browser.
For Windows users, the browser market is already far too crowded -- who needs anything other than Internet Explorer or Firefox? Safari is one browser too many.
He's making a good point you know. I don't agree with him that it's a straight contest between IE and Firefox though; I like to think that Opera has a part to play in the browser ecosystem. Those who don't know any better are stuck with Internet Explorer, those who want to follow the cool crowd or like to pimp up their browser (much like some folk used to pimp up Office 95 apps with all kind of crazy macros that did all kinds of odd things) choose Firefox, while those who want security choose Opera. Given the competition, who then needs Safari?
Some people are suggesting that Safari for Windows is Apple's way to get developers to create web software for the iPhone? I don't buy that. If Steve Jobs thinks that what's needed to stimulate iPhone development is adding a buggy browser to an already overcrowded ecosystem, then he's caught up in his own reality distortion field. Breaking into the browser market is a slow process even when you have a decent product to offer (look how long it's taken Mozilla to get Firefox widely accepted), and given the widespread reports of Safari for Windows crashing on a regular basis, it seems that Apple's been dealt a duff card. By the time the iPhone is released the Safari for Windows market share will be so close to 0% as to make no difference, and I seriously doubt that by the time that the next version of the iPhone is out that this will have crept to anything close to 1%. If Apple really believed that iPhone development needed stimulating and that releasing a Safari for Windows was a way to do this, the browser should have been released at least a year ago.
Those who claim that it's a good thing to have healthy competition in the browser market because it prevents stagnation need to take a really close look at Safari. The Safari gene pool is already pretty stagnant and while it does have some cool features, they're not worth the trade-off in terms of stability and being treated as a second-class citizen by popular sites such as Gmail (where Safari only gives you access to basic features of the site, while IE or Firefox display the enhanced interface). To be frank, when using Safari - on both Windows and Mac - I certainly feel like I'm surfing the web "Netscape class."
I'm with Ed Bott on this. This is about Apple moving into the Windows ecosystem because of the ability to run Windows on a Mac. Having used Boot Camp on the Mac I can safely say that while it's a great tool (although nowhere near as great as Parallels), setting it up requires more than a basic level of know-how, and the issue with drivers and such makes it a sucky experience. Apple would be far better offering Macs that come with Windows pre-installed (like Ed says it would be cheaper for the consumer since an OEM license costs less, but Apple could also make a few bucks in the deal).
Like it or not, Windows is a platform that Apple is very interested in leveraging.