RealTime IT News

Apple Springs Safari Surprise

SAN FRANCISCO -- With its developer resources focused on getting the iPhone ready and finishing the next version of the Mac operating system, no one expected many surprises here at the opening of Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference (WWDC).

But then, Steve Jobs is not one to waste his stage presence rehashing old news. The Apple CEO didn't disappoint, with Safari (the Mac browser is now available for Windows) and iPhone announcements to round out his preview of the Leopard operating system due in October.

Initially previewed last August, Leopard was supposed to have shipped this spring. Then in April, the company pushed it till October to finish the iPhone in time for its June 29 release.

Jobs trumpeted a total of 300 new Leopard features and highlighted 10 of them. And developers at WWDC, which is off-limits to press save for the keynote, were given a full working beta of the new OS.

Some of the features underscore Apple's penchant for attention to detail and style.

The new dock for accessing files has a nifty 3-D look. "Stacks" drew a loud chorus of "oooooooooooh" from the audience. One click on an icon in the dock launches a stack of readily accessible files. There is also a new Downloads folder as a convenient location for all Internet downloads to be automatically placed on the desktop.

Leopard Screen
Click on the graphic for a view of Leopard

Quick Look lets you preview files without opening the associated application. But it's more than a cursory look; you can preview pages of a PDF document, Excel spreadsheet, Word document and other formats. You can even preview a movie file.

Attendees also got a more in-depth look at Time Machine, which Jobs also covered at last year's event. He showed how Quick Look works with Time Machine to gain quick access to a file's content so you can figure out if it's the one you're looking for.

Jobs also touted Leopard's full native 64-bit support, which he said will make it the first mainstream 64-bit  operating system. Windows has a separate 64-bit version. The standard version of Leopard will run both 32-bit and 64-bit apps, the latter of which can hold more far more data in memory so it's of particular benefit to high end photo and animation applications.

After Jobs announced Leopard's $129 price, there were a few gasps in the crowd when he started to say there would also be a premium version. Microsoft offers multiple versions of Vista at different price points. The gasps soon turned to laughter as it was clear Jobs was poking fun at Microsoft and there'd only be one version.

"The premium version is $129, the business version is $129, the enterprise version is $129 and the ultimate version is $129," he said. "We think most users will want the ultimate version."

Jobs didn't leave it at Leopard. He also announced that Safari 3, the latest version of the company's Web browser for the Mac, is now also available as a free public beta for Windows users. It will be included as part of the Leopard OS when it ships.

Although Apple is offering Safari for the same price as Internet Explorer and Firefox -- i.e. free -- the move is another weapon in Apple's fight to win over PC users by exposing them to Macintosh software. Jobs specifically touted Safari's speed as twice as fast as Internet Explorer, which he demoed using standard HTML benchmarks. He said the Mac-only version of Safari has about 5 percent of the market among Internet users worldwide.

"We dream big," said Jobs. "We want to grow, so we need a version that runs Windows."

Analyst Tim Bajarin said the Safari news was a surprise but fits with Apple's strategy of reaching out to Windows users. "It expands on the reach Apple already has with iTunes for Windows," Bajarin told internetnews.com.

Jobs noted that Firefox boasts about 500,000 downloads a day, but Apple gets about a million downloads a day of iTunes for Windows. "So we know how to reach those customers," said Jobs.

The other big news was that Apple, after a bit of hedging earlier, said that developers will be able to make applications for theiPhone due June 29.

Jobs said developers can create Web 2.0 applications that look and behave just like the applications built into iPhone, and that can seamlessly access iPhone's services, such as making a phone call, sending an e-mail and displaying a location in Google Maps.

"There's no SDK  needed; if you know how to write applications for modern Web standards, you can go live [on the iPhone] on June 29."