Will Apple’s Safari become a rich, Internet application container?
When Steve Jobs put up the slide at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) last week that the Safari browser would be available on Windows, there was interest but not much discussion in the blogosphere of why Apple would do it. Some thought it was stupid to try and fight the browser war on Windows.
I see the logic of it and think it’s stealthy, clever and absolutely brilliant. Here’s why…
Apple announced at WWDC that there are currently 500 million active users of iTunes. Every iTunes installation has Quicktime in it. Thinking about the huge install base of Quicktime for some time, I’ve been puzzled why Apple wasn’t taking advantage of Quicktime as a delivery mechanism for cool online-n-offline functionality that is being delivered by Adobe’s AIR and Microsoft’s Silverlight.
But then Steve Jobs shows Safari on Windows and I had one of those forehead-slap moments and a “Doh!” utterance: Safari will be the rich, internet application (RIA) container, not just Quicktime alone!
In his keynote, Jobs emphasized over-n-over again that “the iPhone contains the exact same version of Safari as this one” when describing Safari 3, played up strongly that this same Safari runs on the iPhone and that developers can now create apps for the iPhone by delivering them inside of Safari!
But it gets better.
Here’s another building block in this strategy: At WWDC, Jobs details Dashcode, “Dashcode is a new application for developing Dashboard widgets coming in Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard). Dashcode is everything you need to create great Dashboard widgets.” I’ll bet my bottom dollar that we’ll see Dashcode-like functionality being delivered for we normal humans to create mashups or composite applications.
Next, let’s consider the close alliance with Google and that Dr. Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, is on Apple’s board of directors. Besides everything else they are delivering in their “global supercomputer” as Schmidt has described Google’s infrastructure, Google recently announced the beta of Google Gears allowing offline access to previously only online application functionality. Hmmm…why not use Safari to auto-populate a tabbed container of all my Google apps for offline use?
The longer I mull over the alliance between Google and Apple (or, as some have suggested, an eventual merger), the stronger is my belief in the acceleration in delivery of ever greater capabilities leveraging the strengths of these two firms.
Google is a left-brain company that designs like a blind man with no arms. Apple is without peer in its approach to elegance, beauty, industrial design and understanding the interface between people and technology. They’re simply better than any other company on the planet.
The developer community is one group that sees the Safari potential (especially on the iPhone) but what about people like me that have staff adept at publishing and creation applications (and tech savvy) but are not programmers? As I said here six months ago, Apple’s iWeb could easily be a consumer or prosumer-level creation tool to build and deliver this Safari-based rich, internet application functionality since, “iWeb is the closest thing to a desktop publishing-like layout tool (e.g., Quark, InDesign, Pagemaker) that I’ve EVER used to create Web pages!”
I can imagine my own company building and delivering content that would run inside a container that includes video, audio, flash, HTML, data from the cloud, and be functional offline with its intrinsic value being best when internet connected…but be created without programmers or a lot of technical heavy lifting. That democratization of the tools to create and deliver is what exploded the desktop publishing and video markets and it was higher level tools that allowed mere mortals to create Web sites and other online assets.