Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Windows Safari

At the WWDC yesterday, Steve Jobs announced the immediate availability of Safari for Windows. For those who don't know, Safari is the default browser for Macs. Steve has just reignited the browser wars, which was previously a two horse race between Firefox and IE. This is good news, especially since my favourite browser is Konqueror.

Apple, has been very smart at integrating open source technologies under the hood with closed source wrappers. For the Mac OSX, they used BSD as the underlying OS, with Cocoa as the GUI wrapper. This allowed them to save up on a lot of developmental costs (something which Microsoft really should learn to do) and also leverage a decades proven technology that is stable and secure.

For it's browser, Safari, it did something quite similar. Safari's web rendering engine is based on KHTML, which is the main rendering engine used in KDE, a Linux desktop enviroment. In the beginning, there were some issues between the KDE and Apple developers as Apple didn't release their improvements to the rendering engine in a timely manner. However, all this is water under the bridge now and has been resolved a few of years ago. Incidentally, KHTML passed the Acid2 specifications test before any of the other major browsers.

Personally, I can vouch for the performance claims from Apple. Apple claims that Safari is almost 2x faster than Firefox and 3x faster than IE. The reason that I like Konqueror is because it seems so light weight and fast. So, I would expect Safari to be fairly fast as well. However, I still use Firefox from time to time because it handles non-standards compliant websites better than Konqueror. But for everyday web browsing, Konqueror is king. So, if Safari becomes popular (which it should), more websites will become standards compliant, which will make my web browsing smoother.

Apple is slowly encroaching into Microsoft's territory. It is exploiting the iPod halo affect to good use. People first buy the iPod because it's the hippest MP3 player in town. Then, they download iTunes and use it to manage their media instead of WMP. After that experience, some convert to a Mac instead of a Windows PC. So, I guess that Steve is trying to entice more people to make the leap by feeding them bits and pieces of other OSX technology. See where all this is leading to? Microsoft is so screwed. It is no wonder that they hate open source so vehemently. Every direction it turns, it sees an open source competitor in it's way.

The Firefox people had already predicted this move quite a while ago. They had anticipated that Apple might introduce Safari, with iTunes and .Mac tightly integrated. This will be a minor problem for FF as they are just a browser. With people, these days, using their browsers to access media content directly, tighter integration with a media player will be a boon. However, I don't see FF losing too much market share as most of the iTunes loving crowd tend to use IE anyway, while FF users tend to be more technology conscious.

So, I'm hoping that Safari will snatch away about 10% of the browser market share from IE. This would force web developers to listen and make standards compliant web pages for us all and make life easier for me!

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