Safari for Windows was THE bombshell of Steve Jobs' keynote at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco earlier today. While Jobs explained the move by talking about his desire to increase Safari share of Web browsers, there must be more to it than that.
As most everyone knows, Web browsers are given away for free. Apple has invested some degree of its limited resources to create a Windows-compatible browser that will generate exactly $0 in revenue and will serve to annoy the restless, competitive giant that is Microsoft.
At least when Apple made the iPod Windows-compatible, it was to grab market share with the goal of making piles of money, a plan that has succeeded spectacularly.
Ironically, Microsoft discontinued support for Internet Explorer on the Mac shortly after Apple introduced Safari in 2003, seeing little point in devoting resources to a product that had no monetary or strategic value.
So what is Jobs up to, anyway?
The only explanation is that Safari for Windows is that it's bait, a means of luring Windows users into sampling yet another Apple product. According to Apple, the iPod/iTunes combo has helped bring many Windows users into Apple Stores and many leave Mac owners – "switchers," as Apple likes to call them. Analysts call this the "halo effect."
Safari has even more potential to siphon off Windows users into the Mac universe. While music is popular, not everyone will buy an iPod and use iTunes. But virtually everyone who uses a computer uses a Web browser.
I've seen a lot of grousing from Mac users in forums over the past six months that Apple has "abandoned" the Mac in favor of pushing its multimedia fare (iPods, downloadable movies, Apple TV, the iPhone). When you step back for a minute, though, it becomes clear that all of Apple's extracurricular activities serve to push more people towards the Mac. Safari on Windows is just one more element of that strategy.
When I get the time I will watch Jobs' keynote on via QuickTime on Apple's Web site. I will have more thoughts on his other announcements tomorrow.