The pull of Apple from Windows

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Over in the New York Times, there’s an article about how Apple has released a beta of Safari 3 for Windows. I think this is good news, but then I like browsers. I have Firefox, IE, Opera, and now Safari on the lone Windows machine I use.

The blog in Safari on Windows

I use Firefox almost exclusively and plan to keep it that way. I use IE no more that once a month, and then it’s usually because I come up with a web page that doesn’t work in Firefox. Oddly enough, for the last few times, those pages also haven’t worked in IE. That is, they were page problems, not browser problems. I use Firefox exclusively on Ubuntu.

I’ve never been able to get into Opera. I try out the new versions, and then maybe fire it up if I have a BitTorrent stream to read, but that’s it.

And now I have Safari on Windows. I only use it on the Mac in the way I use IE for Windows, though probably about once a week. Moreover, Safari integration on the Mac is smoother than Firefox’s, though the latter should continue to improve.

Safari on Windows looks virtually identical to Safari on the Mac but, and this is much more important, it extends the Apple software family beyond iTunes on Windows.

I believe the Apple marketing logic goes something like this:

  • We provided iTunes for the Mac and then for Windows and then we cleaned up with both the iPod and iTunes. Everything else is a distant also-ran.
  • Some people so got into the Apple culture and look-and-feel, they bought Macs and moved at least partially away from Windows. The “I’m a Mac” ads didn’t hurt. (Editorial comment: I did this, and I’m still thrilled about making such a good choice a month later.)
  • Anyone who decides to use Safari may further be infected by this attraction to all things Apple. Not only might they buy Macs, but they might buy iPhones. Let’s try to make iPhone into the next iPod-like selling phenomenom.

In summary, people will want things that work and look like Apple products. They’ll start with Windows and at a critical time when they have a choice to upgrade the hardware or software, they might switch. If it works like an Apple, it probably is an Apple.

It’s pretty smart and looks to be well executed. As I said, I fell for it, but I’m happier for doing that. Maybe it’s just part of my mid-life crisis?

What do you think? You don’t have to mention my mid-life crisis. (grin)


  1. I think that is the theory but in practicality I don’t think it’s going to happen. People who are going to download and use Safari are technically savvy people. Those people, I don’t think, will follow this sort of rational:

    “In summary, people will want things that work and look like Apple products. They’ll start with Windows and at a critical time when they have a choice to upgrade the hardware or software, they might switch. If it works like an Apple, it probably is an Apple.”

    Something not really related, but has been on my mind for a while that I find strange. People on the open source front that use OS X. OS X has some of the most restrictive licensing I’ve ever seen and is really against all the ideals of open source. Yet some people in the OSS world will recommend using it while disparaging other products for their restrictive licensing. How does Apple get a free pass, but other companies do not? If Microsoft was to require you to buy Microsoft hardware only to use Vista there would be an uproar.

  2. I certainly think that some of it is rooting for the underdog, but I also believe that elegance in execution has something to do with it. I use a lot of open source software on top of OS X and have bought only one software program beyond what came in the box. In fact, I primarily just use the driver that came with the hardware for the box into which I can plug my electric guitar.

    Without getting into all the reasons, I believe that 20+ years into the personal computer generation we have a lot of complicated, intertwined reasons for why people do what they do.

    Don’t underestimate the power of cool or of marketing.

  3. iTunes on Windows is only popular because of the iPod and the iTunes music store. The iTunes music store is only popular because of the iPod. (On Windows it’s dog slow, for one thing. I really wish I didn’t have to use it, but can’t find anything better.) There are certainly other software mp3 players with big market penetration — Winamp (still), WMP, etc.

    I tend to think that the main benefit is that it helps ensure that hot new web apps don’t launch without Safari support (as Gmail did), which is a particular concern for the iPhone.

  4. Will Zune rival the iPod? What are the factors there? I don’t think having Microsoft software on Macs drove many people to Windows, but I could be wrong. Will the opposite happen as I describe above?

  5. “I use IE no more that once a month, and then it’s usually because I come up with a web page that doesn’t work in Firefox. Oddly enough, for the last few times, those pages also haven’t worked in IE. That is, they were page problems, not browser problems.”

    Odd that you automatically assume that a page which displays strangely in Firefox but looks more like you’d suspect the author intended in IE, is in fact a problem with Firefox. In my experience, nearly all such pages are broken. Nearly all the rendering issues seen in Firefox *are* “page problems”, and not browser problems.

    IE6 is a horribly broken browser, in a number of different ways. IE7 less so, but it’s still worse than all the major competition (FF, Opera, Konq/Safari). Just because a page looks sane in it is *no* guarantee that the page is sane or not broken.

  6. I’m intrigued, as you are, as to what will really drive people to use this browser. I wrote about it at some length yesterday.
    I think the iTunes thing was based on the appeal of the hardware as much as the ease-of-use of the software. The browser market on Windows is (relatively) crowded, and Safari is crippled in the lack of an extensions interface.

  7. Well, it’s another recognition of the proposition that ‘software’ is a good marketing novelty.
    You just have to be sure that you have the right to give it away.

    IBM knows this; is IBM’s kit to help you install Linux (which isn’t an IBM product) on the IBM pSeries server you have bought (which is). Of course, IBM will try to sell you IBM AIX (another IBM product) if you let the salesman in the door, and probably an IBM Global Servant to press the keys on the keyboard for you, too, but sooner or later you have to say ‘enough is enough’ and get on with running your business.

    It gets a little confusing where ‘software’ is used as a marketing novelty for ‘software’; but IBM does this, too. , for example.

    Now, if only Microsoft would get with the rhythm, we’d be OK.

  8. I was reading this and mentally disagreeing with the iTunes analogy, when suddenly I realized you were right.

    You need iTunes (the player, and to a much lesser degree the store) on Windows in order for the iPod to succeed. One of the key things Apple does is put the intelligence into iTunes and make the iPod a dumb receptacle.

    I think someone mentioned that the iPhone syncs your bookmarks from Safari. Obviously for that to work for 95% of users they now need this on Windows and, if they get a few of these features correct (in particular I’m thinking an Address Book clone to manage contacts, email and phone numbers) then it creates a powerful feedback loop where owners of iPhones/iPods feel they also need to use iTunes/Quicktime/Safari.

    Basically, Safari has the same weak attraction as iTunes, suitable for folk who like things done the Apple way, but in conjunction with iPod/iPhone it’s a killer app and could run away with a big chunk of the non-geek market.

    I know that you hear a great deal of bitching about iTunes from the Windows geeks, actually an unbelievable amount, but I don’t think that’s had any impact on its uptake among ordinary folks which I believe is pretty miraculous considering the perilous state that Quicktime on Windows was in. In fact you could probably say the same about the iPod hardware itself, succeeding despite vociferous coverage of every slight flaw.

    (An other aside, is that alot of .mac functionality is useless if you use a Mac at home, or on the road, and a PC (or Linux) at work. I know bookmark sharing across machines has pushed me to the Firefox &Google Toolbar combination on multiple computers. Maybe part of the much rumoured/wanted .Mac upgrade is an extension of it’s cross platform support, similar to the iDisk uploader they provide)

  9. Change is good, but I agree with Adam that Apple is not a consumer-friendly company. They tend to sue their own users (and bloggers) almost as much as the RIAA, and have made a cult out of secrecy, not openness. So I don’t give them a pass on their software, hardware, or corporate philosophy. But calling Apple an underdog is like calling GNU/Linux one. It’s unlikely that either will make a big dent in the Windows stranglehold anytime soon. Note I said “big.” I prefer, however, to look at it from a different angle: it’s different, and being different (from Microsoft) is an honorable thing.

    Also Bob, you don’t have to justify your Apple heresy…. er, choice against Microsoft. Hell man, just use it and enjoy it. If you’re happy, we’re happy. Just keep taking us along for the ride. I’ve enjoyed reading your transition and hope you’ll continue telling guys like me about it here.

  10. Just thought I’d add that Charles Schulz is also taking a Mac journey and sharing your own experience. Here’s one of his posts:
    I have been a Mac for three months…:

    All in all, the impression I get from Macs is that these are computers done right. They are done right but it should not be an outstanding achievement; I for one, think that it’s the rest of the hardware manufacturers who have consciously embarked in a trip for profitability made upon their own customers by selling them crappy hardware. In a sense, I feel like I have been lied to for years about the personal computers industry. And Apple opened my eyes.

  11. To clarify a little bit I’ll always put my full name on comments so I’m different than the other Adam that post the comments. Back to topic.

    Apple certainly has the marketing down and it’s much easier to be the underdog, mainly because you can shine light on your competitors shortcomings without looking like the big bad bully. I don’t think Safari and ITunes will be the deciding factor. After rereading your post it seems that there is something to having the culmination of different products. If they come out with a couple more products that work both ways then I think they can create the idea of “Everything else is a distant also-ran.”

    I think Bootcamp, Parallels, and VMWare will figure more into their marketing plan. If I was Apple I might even try to give a coupon of $20 off of Parallels or VMWare when you purchase a new computer or copy of Leopard. It would be interesting if the reason for the delay was to wait for VMWare to finish their product which should, interestingly enough, come out just before the release of Leopard. I don’t think that Apple would wait on a release of someone else’s product, but if it figured into a large marketing plan then who knows.

  12. I’m sure Apple would love to pull over more Windows users to their hardware platform. Once people are there, they can see the “wonders” of OS X and then start decreasing their Windows usage beyond what is absolutely necessary. Since people can’t do the reverse, run OS X on non-Mac hardware, this is a magnet strategy that just might work.

  13. John Gruber had an interesting take on the whole Safari on Windows move from the financial aspect over on daring fireball (it’s the bottom 1/3 of the post.)

    Personally, this just adds fuel to my desire for Apple to release the “Apple environment on Windows OS SDK” that they’ve clearly been using in the background. At least I hope they’re smart enough to keep the application code common and use an adaptation environment to make it portable. Of course that might undercut the whole move to get folks to switch to a mac. :)

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