Apple to build browser into OS X

Macworld: Apple will integrate its new open-source browser, Safari, into Mac OS X. There is also the promise of an X11 windowing system that would enable Macs run Unix and Linux apps

Apple is planning on taking a page out of Microsoft's book, and integrating its new browser technology into the Mac OS X operating system.

The Mac maker introduced a test version of its new browser, Safari, on Tuesday at the kick-off of the Macworld trade show in San Francisco. The software is a significant step in boosting Apple's Mac-only software offering, and reflects a shift in Apple's relationship with Microsoft, maker of the dominant Internet Explorer browser.

Six years ago, a deal with Microsoft made Internet Explorer the default browser on the Macintosh. This deal has now expired, so Apple is free to expand its own browser offerings, and is planning to build browser technology into the operating system in much the same way that Microsoft did with Windows.

"We are going to make the browser an integrated part of the OS," said Oren Ziv, creative markets director for Apple Europe. "Developers will be able to draw on browser functionality in other applications, without needing to build that functionality from scratch."

Apple's browser engineers based Safari on the KHTML rendering engine and KJS JavaScript engine, both part of the Konqueror open-source browser project. "Not only were they the basis of an excellent modern and standards compliant Web browser, they were also less than 140,000 lines of code," wrote Don Melton, Apple's Safari engineering manager, in a letter to the Konqueror developer team that was published on Konqueror's Web site. "The size of (Konqueror's) code and ease of development within that code made it a better choice for us than other open-source projects."

The most prominent other open-source browser project is Mozilla, which was launched by Netscape Communications, and is now the basis for the Netscape 7 browser. In fact, Melton was involved in launching Mozilla in 1998, and other Safari developers are veterans of open-source projects such as the Chimera browser, the Nautilus file manager and Eazel, a defunct Linux software company.

Apple has published the source code for Safari, along with details of the changes the company made to the Konqueror code. KHTML and KJS are published under an open-source licence, which broadly allows anyone to modify and redistribute the underlying software code, as long as they return their improvements to the community.

In a further late Christmas present to open-source devotees, Apple also unveiled a public beta version of X11 for OS X at Macworld. X11 is a windowing system used by Unix-like operating systems such as Linux, and its inclusion in OS X will make it easier for users to run Unix and Linux applications.

"With a minor recompile, you can run these applications directly in OS X," said Ziv.

The new applications are part of Apple's drive to offer appealing software unique to the Mac OS platform. The company also introduced new versions of three of its "iLife" applications, for editing and organising digital music, photos and video.

What will Apple come up with next? For full Mac OS coverage, see ZDNet UK's Mac News Section.

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