A Suggestion for Apple in 2007

Dear Apple, the first 30 years were only the beginning, or so you say. You’re poised to make HUGE inroads this year, with some sources saying you’re going to claim up to 20% of laptop sales on college campuses. You’re also going to sell a ridiculous number of iPods again, an obscene number of tracks on iTunes, and very likely a substantial number of iPhones and iTVs if, in fact, they show up soon. Let me tell you what you really ought to do then, and quickly: port Safari to Windows.

Read on, I’ll tell you why.

Safari is the native OS X browser. It’s akin to IE in Windows: it’s been preinstalled as the default browser since Panther, and it’s the only bundled browser in Tiger, so almost every Mac user has at least tried it, if only to download Firefox, Camino, Opera, or OmniWeb.

The problem here is that you’re trying to convince people to switch from Windows, which is like a crappy old blanket: it’s got holes in it, it smells a little, the dog peed on it a few times, and it doesn’t even work that well, but it’s familiar and using it is like second nature if only because we’ve been using it so long. Since so much of the home computing experience is using the browser, getting people to feel at home in their most used application is a big step. Combine this with iTunes and you’ve got yourself one hell of a 1-2 punch.

Plus, we already know that your apps can be successfully ported to Windows. iTunes keeps pace on both platforms, and is a large part of the sales pitch you use: “Know iTunes? Then you know a Mac.” Quicktime codecs and the player itself are well synced. iDisks are compatible with Windows, iPod updaters and Apple Software Update run, so we know your engineers can program for the platform. I don’t think any of these are written in Cocoa like Safari, but I’m sure your engineers can make this happen if they were motivated to do so.

How about this: people don’t write websites for Safari. Safari’s Webkit is a branded version of Webcore, which is based on KHTML, the rendering engine for KDE’s Konquerer. But it’s only “based” on it, it’s not the same. There are changes to Webcore that haven’t been backported, so they aren’t completely compatible. As such, it’s not easy to design or test webpages to work well in Safari with direct access to a Mac. You don’t provide web developers any sort of VMWare or Virtual PC image they could use, so they just have to assume things work. If your browser is considered a second class citizen, then your whole OS suffers from obscurity syndrome.

Thus is the gist of this piece: by running Safari on Windows, you can not only coerce more web developers into providing Safari compatibility, and therefore be a true presence, rather than a fringe app, but you can also introduce users to the Mac experience even just a little more. Plus, now that IE 7 has been totally reconfigured and is once again foreign to users, you have a chance to introduce users who aren’t planning on upgrading the Vista just yet to Safari and Macs, and possibly even make a play to be their next purchase, rather than a tired, old, unexciting PC.

Maybe it’s making a leap of faith, and yes, the browser market is one where making a noticeable entrance will be challenging, but the less of a jump into the deep end buying a Mac is, the easier it is to make your Apple brand accessible, available, and not scary. The best way to start? Safari on Windows.

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