Is Jobs planning a hostile takeover of the Windows desktop?

Is Jobs planning a hostile takeover of the Windows desktop?

Summary: Yesterday, Steve Jobs announced that Apple's Safari browser would be available for Windows. Analysts are asking: Why would any Windows user want or need this? Wrong question. What they should be asking is: Why does Steve Jobs want Windows users to run Safari?

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Let’s just get this out of the way right at the start: Steve Jobs is a genius and rarely makes stupid decisions. If you accept that statement as gospel, then you have to assume that Jobs has a brilliant master plan behind yesterday’s announcement that Apple’s Safari browser would be available for Windows. The full details didn’t come out in his remarks at the Apple developers conference yesterday, but it must be there.

Meanwhile, pundits are falling all over themselves to declare this the stupidest idea to come out of Cupertino since John Sculley fired Steve Jobs way back in 1985. My colleague Adrian Kingsley-Hughes yawned. Larry Dignan thinks it’s about monetizing the search box and scoffs at its financial potential, calling it a “rounding error.” Leander Kahney, who runs the Cult of Mac website, offers this critique from the other side of the aisle:

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?

Why would anyone run it on Windows? Wrong question. The real question that we all should be asking is, “Why does Steve Jobs want Windows users to run Safari?”

For the answer, consider the fact that Apple is a hardware company with a tidy side business in services (music and TV shows). Yes, they write some pretty good software, but the real money comes from Macs and iPods and the iTunes store. Now, no one is going to pay for a browser in 2007, so why spend all that money on development and support? It makes no sense. Unless…

Unless Apple is planning to start selling its own hardware with Windows preloaded alongside OS X, and they’re planning to customize the Apple version of Windows by replacing as many Microsoft-branded middleware products as possible. There’s a hint of that strategy in the Safari press release, in which Apple boasts about the performance of Safari on Windows:

Safari has always been the fastest browser on the Mac and now it’s the fastest browser on Windows, loading and drawing web pages up to twice as fast as Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 and up to 1.6 times faster than Mozilla Firefox 2.*

That little asterisk at the end leads to this footnote:

*Performance will vary based on system configuration, network connection and other factors. Testing conducted on an iMac 2.16 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo system running Windows XP, with 1GB of RAM.

Hmmm. I’ve seen an awful lot of Macbooks running Windows lately. I personally know at least two senior Microsoft developers who happily run Windows Vista on Macbook Pros, and at a recent tech conference I noted that roughly 50% of the Macbooks I saw were running Windows XP or Vista using Boot Camp. In every one of those cases, the owner had to buy their own retail copy of Windows from Microsoft, install it themselves, and turn over half the system to an environment that Apple had not designed or approved. So what would happen if Apple began selling Windows as an option on new Macs?

1. The customer would save money. An OEM copy of Windows costs about half of what a retail copy costs, giving Apple room to pocket the difference.

2. The user experience would be better. The user wouldn’t have to go through the rigmarole of a side-by-side installation. Apple could tweak the installation, add custom drivers, and basically tune the system for maximum performance and reliability instead of allowing the Windows defaults to rule.

And here’s the part where Safari comes in:

3. Apple could replace virtually every bundled Microsoft application with its own equivalent. Windows Media Player? It’s out, in favor of iTunes. Internet Explorer? Buh-bye. Safari is the new default. Windows Movie Maker? iMovie. Windows Photo Gallery? iLife. The only missing piece is Microsoft’s e-mail client, Windows Mail (the successor to Outlook Express). And how hard would it be to port an Apple-branded e-mail client to Windows?

The best part, from a Jobsian perspective, is that Microsoft is legally prohibited from complaining about any such changes:

[T]he settlement prohibits Microsoft from retaliating against any OEM (original equipment manufacturer) because of an OEM's participation in promoting or developing non-Microsoft middleware or a non-Microsoft operating system. This provision takes the "club" out of Microsoft's hand and prevents the company from using anticompetitive means to discourage OEM's from promoting or preventing rival software from being developed or installed on the Windows desktop.

Does any Windows user want Safari on their current system? Unlikely. Does Steve Jobs want as many Apple logos as possible on the Windows desktop when it’s running on Apple hardware? Absolutely. Think of it as a hostile takeover of the Windows environment by someone who is an acknowledged master at the art. Just ask the music industry.

So, my prediction: Come October, when Leopard ships, Apple will announce that anyone buying a new Mac can order an Apple-customized version of Windows Vista preinstalled on the same system. If I’m an Apple stockholder, do I care that those machines aren’t running OS X full time? Absolutely not. Windows can hang on to most of its market share, while Apple cuts a huge slice out of the hardware market currently owned by less nimble, less cutthroat competitors.

I’d consider buying an Apple-branded box if it came with Windows preinstalled. Would you?

Topics: IT Employment, Apple, Hardware, Operating Systems, Windows

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220 comments
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  • A day late and a dollar short

    You grab the right rifle, understand the enemy correctly, line up the sights, pull the trigger, and kill the tree in the neighbor's back yard.

    Safari is on Windows for iPhone integration, not for some hostile takeover of the Windows desktop.
    frgough
    • I'm glad I'm . . .

      not the only one who understands that. Quite frankly, from what I've heard from SOME (note some) Mac people, iTunes on Windows is not as good as the Mac version. I haven't checked it out, so I don't know for sure.

      I DO know that it pretty much sucks as a media player, though, compared to some other offerings on the windows side of things (WMP 11 actually isn't half bad, but I still mainly use Winamp).

      Safari will be the same way. There are MUCH better offerings in Windows than Safari. I finally got the stupid thing to work on my laptop last night (still can't get it to work right on my desktop), and while it IS fast, I ain't giving up Firefox for it.
      JLHenry
      • safari

        JL,

        i actually hope that he [jobs] is making an inroad on the desktop.

        at least that will force m$ to put an effort into
        making upgrade path software worth using (uhhh vista...IE7)

        i had no problems installing safari on my winXP desktop, as a matter of fact, am posting this note using safari.

        what ???

        what browsers you using on a winbloze box that works as well as safari out of the box, w/out tweaking gecko to death...
        dhudson_z
        • Well, Hopefully . . . .

          You're done playing with your'$' key and using derogatory terms to describe
          Windows, and ready to discuss things like a big boy . . .

          I finally got Safari to work on my Desktop, but had to add files that didn't get
          installed like they were supposed to, had to move folders around and rewrite the
          fonts.plist file.

          Safari on my Laptop worked without a hitch. Same operating system, just different
          hardware.

          As for Mr. Jobs, all he has to do to fight Microsoft (see how easy it is to type
          CORRECTLY?) is release a version of OS X for generic Intel/AMD machines, and see
          how much of the market he can take. The reason you won't see this happen is that
          he wants to sell you the hardware, and if he puts Vista on the Mac, People will stop
          buying Macs and buy something from HP (or Dell, E-Machines, Gateway, etc) at half
          the cost that is just as powerful.

          Also, you WON'T see any of the other programs come out for Windows, either (iLife,
          Garage Band, etc) because if he does, he negates any reason to buy a Mac from HIM
          . . .

          And my Primary Browser is Firefox, which installed and ran perfectly right from the
          download . . .no 'tweaking' required . . .
          JLHenry
          • I totally and utterly disagree

            He will do it.... He WILL sell mac os's for pc's soon.

            id bet you 100 cash on the spot.

            and you wouldnt take the bet.

            right???
            pcguy777
      • Safari on Windows

        I'm not a big Windows fan, but Safari on Windows is a kludge. One of my biggest
        complaints about Firefox is that it doesn't follow the look and feel of the OS it sits
        on, and Safari does the same thing in reverse. Blech. It's painful to look at on
        Windows. It's obviously a quick and dirty port just to get it out the door in time for
        the iPhone.
        frgough
    • It Crashed in 3 seconds

      Eagerly, I installed Safari on my WinXp yesterday. It crashed on opening the home page. I managed to stop that and tried to open another website. It again crashed within 2 seconds. There is no OK/Cancel button in the preferences. The Ctrl->Enter shortcut does not work to open websites! Dreadful. Firefox is far far better with all its plugins. Safari stands uninstalled!!!
      arunitc@...
    • Genius inside

      Jobs is not a genius, this blogger is. I agree with what you stated, and it's obvious. But the guy above cannot see obvious things (years using windows can end this way). The half brain declaration: Apple is giving windows apps with the intent to deliver machines with both OSes. Oh my.. And just think about, the alleged takeover would be the most happier thing to happen to mainstream desktop users around ever..
      green alien
  • Maybe not

    Isn't this all about the iPhone?

    The iPhone comes with the complete Safari engine installed - not FireFox, not
    IE...

    By making Safari available to MS developers, doesn't this increase the chances
    for compelling biz apps written for iPhone?
    mountebank
  • True, but imagine the Windows users that want to switch to Mac, but have

    Windows apps that they depend on. This would be a great way for them to ween themselves from Windows. The more time users spend with Apple applications, the more likely they will be to just go with OSX the next time.
    DonnieBoy
    • imagine the Windows users that want to switch to Mac

      And who cares if on their next Mac they run, Mac OSX, Windows, or some combination? The point is they bought a Mac. I think this makes sense.
      kowolters@...
      • Very true, right here, right now, they buy a Mac, that is big for Apple.

        And, having all of the Apple apps installed out of the box, and the superior hardware design, will keep them on the Mac platform, even if they stick with Vista.

        Really, pretty smart for Apple.
        DonnieBoy
        • Remember Phoenix////

          The were the "IBM Compatible" Bios makers!!
          I bet once Apple gets more successful as a hardware maker, you will see "APLE COMPATIBLE" Computers, all running OSX and WINwhatever.
          PC makers will not sit idle if their market-share starts to erode!
          Northwolf
        • WTH are you babbling about? Superior hardware? WHERE?

          [b]And, having all of the Apple apps installed out of the box, and the superior hardware design, will keep them on the Mac platform, even if they stick with Vista.[/b]

          In case you haven't noticed, Apple's hardware is pretty much the EXACT SAME crap you can buy pretty much anywhere. It's the SAME exact CORE 2 DUO you'll find coming from Dell, HP, Lenovo, Toshiba, Gateway. The video cards are the EXACT SAME models you'll find down at the local PC shop. Same goes for the hard and optical drives and pretty much EVERY other bit of hardware.

          The only difference is the motherboard - it's got a TPM chip and that's "superiority" has been put into question. Instead of being the wizbang gizmo that's keeping the bad guys away from your system, TPM morphed into the gizmo that enforces DRM.

          So.. Again, WHAT is so freakin' superior about Apple's hardware? It's just a PC with a TPM chip and EFI. Is it the 1 button mouse? I dunno... I like mine to have at least 2 - 3 buttons, thank you.
          Wolfie2K3
          • WTH are you babbling about?

            My My someone work up on the wrong side of the rock!
            aussieblnd@...
          • Good post, I agree (NT)

            >:-]
            tek_heretik
          • Man, what are YOU babbling about??? Apple is consistently ranked very high

            on design. The Apple laptops are considered the best. Sure you can argue that they have the same processor as a Dell, but Dells are boring, black and grey, uuuuugly. You can argue all day long about how apple hardware is not as good, but at the end of the day, people want to be seen with a Mac, NOT a Dell. And, just the general quality of fit and finish, the hinges, well every little detail is better on a Mac. For uuuuugly engineers that only see the processor inside, the Mac is nothing special. So what????
            DonnieBoy
          • Gourmand vs. Gourmet

            The gourmet appreciates the fine wine. A gourmand will take anything that looks
            vaguely purple and mock the gourmet for placing value on appearance and
            aesthetics.

            It's easy to figure out which is which in the world of computing.
            frgough
          • Superiod *design*

            is what makes apple successful. And that isn't electronic design anymore, it's just the look. But it's a way to make a business - the car companies always have. So who (if they have the money) wouldn't pay for a little upscale design on their Windows box? Going back to the original article, I think there's some truth to this line of thinking...
            enovikoff
          • Apple's strong point is also it's downfall

            Beyond what Wolfie said. The O/S is the major difference. Where Linux is completely open source, Apple is (virtually) completely closed source. Gates got it correct with a good mixture of the two.

            Mac's stability is a result of its relative closed code. Any 3rd party software or hardware has to confine and constrict itself to Mac's code.

            Thus, the lack of 3rd party support, and the premium price, has lead it to it's current market share. That exposure to the "wild" doesn't make it a good target to hackers. Those people thrive on exposure. The more the better, and they won't spend the time to find Mac exploits unless they see a reward. "like a new apple"
            Species8472