Om Malik tries to look inside the mind of Steve Jobs to figure out why he would choose to enter the browser war with Safari for Windows. He cites the various theories so far--competing with Microsoft IE with more success than Mozilla's Firefox, creating a suite of Web applications and generating search engine revenues. He dismisses Robert Cringley's notion that Apple has designs on infiltrating AT&T with Apple TV and other products. Om's theory is that Apple is simply looking for 'switchers,' replicating what it has done with iTunes for Windows:
Apple is looking for switchers: people who just are fed-up of PCs and want Macs, but are not ready to make the jump because they are not familiar with the UI and the interface. Every time I ask someone why aren’t you switching to a Mac, they show fear of having to relearn everything. What if Apple gives out small doses of Apple experience, slowly trying to overcome their fear of re-learning?
I agree with Om on that point. Russell Shaw agrees.
Alan Graham doesn't buy the switcher theory. He thinks that Safari for Windows will help make the Apple browser more compatible with Web applications and gain some market share. He also posits that Safari for Windows will help keep Quicktime from being irrelevant. I buy his first the compatibility and Quicktime reasons, but still think that that inducing people to switch by exposing them to Mac software is key for Apple. It's about the money Apple makes selling hardware, because the company does not have the Google or Microsoft business model.
Alan also agrees with many other commentators that Safari for Windows is a developer accelerator for iPhone applications. It's also much more visible target now for malware writers.
I tend to think the overriding reason to decouple Safari from the Mac and offer a Windows version is because, like iTunes, the browser is core software for Apple's ambitions.
The Safari browser engine, interfacing with the Web, will be in every consumer hardware device that Apple produces. It will attract developers for the iPhone and future devices, and plant the Macintosh software seeds, especially as Apple figures out how to build more of an ecosystem for its products by exposing more APIs and Web services to developers.
And underlying all these practical reasons is the fact that Jobs has always felt that Apple's software is superior. For Jobs, software is an elite art form that few can do well; for Microsoft it's a business, goes the legend. Elegance matters. Safari for Windows is described as having an "elegant user interface."
Windows has users; Apple has a cult of passionate users. Looking at Vista and the Mac OS, it's not that easy for the uninitiated to tell the difference, as Mary Jo Foley points out.
Getting Safari in front of Windows users strokes Apple's sense of manifest destiny. Steve Jobs believes that Apple can create a more elegant, superior browser than Mozilla or Microsoft. It's another way to introduce the Mac way to users and developers, and to induce them to come all the way. It follows a well known Microsoft dictum: Embrace and extend.