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  • Reality Check: The Great Safari for Windows Installation Scam

    March 24th, 2008

    I suppose Mozilla CEO John Lilly had a point when he said that Apple’s stealth Safari install process for Windows was “wrong.” After all, Safari isn’t just being pushed to folks who had previously installed Apple’s browser, but to anyone who had previously installed iTunes or just QuickTime.

    The question, of course, is just how Apple should have promoted its browser upgrade to Windows users. Right now, they are third-best as far as market share is concerned, way behind Mozilla’s Firefox, let alone Microsoft Internet Explorer.

    When it comes to gaining market share, Firefox benefits from several years of viral marketing, where millions of users, looking for a safer, faster alternative to Internet Explorer, have embraced Firefox as their preferred alternative. Basically on the Windows platform, Microsoft’s home-brewed browser has the same structure as Safari on a Mac. It is generally installed along with any operating system update, as part of the process. You don’t have to seek it out online first.

    So where does that place Apple? Certainly, their target isn’t Firefox so much as Internet Explorer, which is clearly vulnerable. Despite the fact that MSIE is part of Windows Vista, and is pushed out in the latest updates to XP, it’s still hemorrhaging market share. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but clearly it’s seen better days. Maybe Internet Explorer 8 — which holds out the promise of superior fidelity with Web standards — will do better, but that is by no means a certainty.

    Understand that nobody is being forced to download Safari, let alone install it. Although the Install box is checked, they just have to uncheck that option when they see Software Update’s window appear on a Windows PC. And if they do opt to accept Safari, it’s not as if the system will be bogged down with background daemons stealing CPU cycles or taking over their PCs. They can just ignore it, or run Safari a time or two and see if it’s quite as blazing fast as Apple claims. If so, they gain from having another first-class browser to choose from. If not, uninstall and be done with it.

    Yes, I suppose Apple might be a tad too aggressive in pushing Safari downloads in this fashion, taking advantage of their presence on the Windows desktop because of iTunes and QuickTime. But I can see their point in invading Microsoft’s turf in this fashion. It’s not as if Microsoft isn’t up to pulling a few fast ones on its user base. Consider how they foisted the Windows Genuine Advantage update, which was nothing more than a scheme to have your PC phone home at regular interviews in a wrong-headed attempt to control software piracy.

    Besides, does anyone really want to steal Windows anymore anyway? I thought power users these days were more inclined to want to induce Mac OS X to run on their white box PCs. But what do I know?

    As far as I’m concerned, I’m not down on Apple for pulling this stunt. At best, they’ll gain a few points in market share for Safari, which is actually a good thing. Maybe they’ll get a few letters of complaint about what they did, from folks who believe they are taking advantage of the fact that most PC users simply accept what the download screens offer without using critical faculties to decide if it’s something they really need.

    But what about Safari? Are Windows users really getting some value from it? Well, if you’re accustomed to Microsoft’s user interface, Safari might be a bit of a put-off, since it looks noticeably Mac-like even on another platform. Text display, preference panels and so forth and so on closely match the Mac version. Then again, how many Mac ports managed to look like Windows invaders so maybe they deserve something in return?

    As far as the promise of greater performance is concerned, true Safari is incredibly swift. It launches faster than Internet Explorer, renders faster and more accurately (at least on sites that aren’t dependent on custom Internet Explorer hooks) and appears to be quite stable.

    Any frequent Internet surfer ought to be overjoyed at having another browser alternative on the Windows platform. As MSIE’s share erodes, it will force more and more Webmasters to make their sites more compatible with industry standards. That way most everyone can get a good user experience and not be forced to conform to a Microsoft-driven proprietary standard.

    I rather suspect that Apple’s attempts to boost Safari come at a great time. Safari for the iPhone, for example, has a majority share among mobile phone surfers, though in that category it’s also one of the very few usable browsers. For the most part, the Internet experience on a cell phone is miserable.

    In the end, Apple clearly has more courage than Microsoft these days. I mean, when Apple came out with Safari, Microsoft abandoned the Mac version of IE and cut and run. If they think they have such a great browser, why not try to compete in Apple’s sandbox and see how they do? In fact, why not deliver a new Mac version of their media player, supporting their current DRM, if they think it’s so great? Of course, it hasn’t done so well on their native platform, so maybe Microsoft sees no sense in trying.



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    14 Responses to “Reality Check: The Great Safari for Windows Installation Scam”

    1. Dana Sutton says:

      Maybe somebody can enlighten me, but I’ve never quite understood the point of the whole “browser wars” bit, why MS pushed IE and why Apple is pushing Safari now. All the major browsers are given away free, nobody has ever figured out to “monetize” (don’t you love that word?) a browser, the way Google figured out how to make a search service a profitable business venture. I don’t see how it necessarily brings any direct benefit to a corporation to put out a popular browser. Yes, there may be indirect benefits, but even these may be more hypothetical than real. And yet I see at least one important difference between Apple pushing Safari and MS pushing IE: among browsers, Safari is notorious for its strict adherence to standards, Apple isn’t in the business of cooking up any proprietary code that only works with Safari and then producing a browser that works optimally only with that. So when Apple pushes Safari a bit, who’s being hurt? You’d have to be pretty inventive to find a way this hurts consumers. The people at Firefox are loudly complaining but this isn’t taking a dime out of their pockets. In basketball, the saying is “no harm, no foul,” and that certainly seems to be the case here.

    2. With Microsoft, it’s a power game and the ability to enforce their own proprietary standards. Apple is engaged in a little stealth marketing, as you get an almost Mac-like interface on Safari for Windows.

      Peace,
      Gene

    3. Andy Carolan says:

      I like Safari, I really do, but I HATE those occasions when I am installing software (free or otherwise) and have to click a box to prevent an install of an unwanted application. The download version of Adobe Acrobat Reader has recently done the same with a couple of applications upon download although as part of the “user experience” i left feedback suggesting the removal of this “feature” as I believe its at best darn annoying.

      Remember, Apple makes a big thing of not supplying lots of unwanted applications with its OS (as supplied with new systems), so why are they forcing something something such as Safari upon us? Do I need it? no….. I am already very happy with Fx2 thanks 😉

      That said, I am quite happy to try out Safari as an alternative browser. BUT I dont want it creeping up on me like some kind of predatory carnivore ready to sink its teeth into my soft fleshy butt.

    4. John says:

      Actually, it is a money game.

      See that little Google search box? that box makes money for the browser maker. Firefox brought in nearly $85 millions last year that way. So if Safari manages to grab a share from Firefox, the Mozilla foundation risks losing income from their search box. So they have something to gain by complaining (have you noticed that all the stories about Apple’s push of Safari on Windows mention firefox first and foremost? That’s free marketing).

      As to who benefits the most from Safari’s increased market share on Windows, it’s Apple (money wise) and non-Windows users. Mac and Linux users will benefit because a bigger share for standard compliant browsers means that Webmasters will be generally discouraged from created IE specific sites, so other systems users like the Mac and Linux would be less excluded from the internet in general.

      Personally, my sites are all strict standards compliant and the share of IE (in all versions) across my sites is down to 55.5%. Hopefully soon IE’s share on my sites will drop below 50%. The smaller the IE share is, the easier it is for me to develop new features and have them work properly for the majority of my users.

    5. Craig says:

      Question. Is webkit installed as part of the iTunes installation? I suspect so. So now that the Safari version for Windows is out of beta, it makes sense for Apple to promote it. I don’t see anything underhanded in Apple offering to install it. The new Windows version sounds like it is worth a look for PC users. At least PCMagazine seems to think so:
      http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2704,2278107,00.asp

      It’s hilarious to see all the tech bloggers bitching about this. Are there still PC users so dumb they don’t look at what they’re clicking? No wonder malware is so common!

      Does anyone seriously use only one browser? The hundreds of Macs my colleagues and I support are all equipped with both Firefox and Safari so users can use each when appropriate.

    6. Yes, WebKit is part of the iTunes installation, which means you don’t need a whole lot more to add Safari to the mix. While some may not like the way Apple has gone about this attempt to spread Safari to Windows users, Microsoft does a whole lot worse and they get away with it.

      Peace,
      Gene

    7. Spencerian says:

      It seems we have forgotten WHEN Safari for Windows came out.

      The same time as the iPhone was announced. Since Safari was needed for webapp development, a Windows version was needed. Apple does not want to go into the email game (That is already owned by Microsoft, primarily) but the web browser and media streaming “wars” are still on, both in development and access. Thus, QuickTime, iTunes and Safari for Windows.

      Funny how well Apple is succeeding in this “stick and move” tech war. Other companies appear not just outmatched, but in some ways, outguessed and outclassed. Very strange in an industry where there are very few secrets and fewer surprises.

    8. Richard Taylor says:

      Apple still presented choice. Apple didn’t say, you want Quicktime or iTunes, you’ve got to take Safari. That is the major different between Microsoft’s philosophy and Apple’s. The brou-ha-ha is hoh-hoh-horsepuckey.

      As for look and feel of ported programs, I received my copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 last night and while it runs much faster on my Intel machine, it doesn’t really look very Mac-like. It doesn’t really look Windows-like either, although certainly more that than this. There is an arrogance associated with monopoly (or nearly monopoly) status that rarely serves the end user. Thus far Apple has avoided it.

      Thus far.

    9. Steve says:

      Yes, WebKit is part of the iTunes installation, which means you don’t need a whole lot more to add Safari to the mix. While some may not like the way Apple has gone about this attempt to spread Safari to Windows users, Microsoft does a whole lot worse and they get away with it.

      Gene, I’d be curious to know the source of your information with regard to iTunes installing WebKit. According to Dave Hyatt, iTunes does not use WebKit.

      http://westciv.typepad.com/dog_or_higher/2004/06/ituneswebkit.html
      http://weblogs.mozillazine.org/hyatt/archives/cat_safari.html

    10. Yes, WebKit is part of the iTunes installation, which means you don’t need a whole lot more to add Safari to the mix. While some may not like the way Apple has gone about this attempt to spread Safari to Windows users, Microsoft does a whole lot worse and they get away with it.

      Gene, I’d be curious to know the source of your information with regard to iTunes installing WebKit. According to Dave Hyatt, iTunes does not use WebKit.

      http://westciv.typepad.com/dog_or_higher/2004/06/ituneswebkit.html
      http://weblogs.mozillazine.org/hyatt/archives/cat_safari.html

      Point taken, Steve. Thanks for the update.

      Peace,
      Gene

    11. Apple still presented choice. Apple didn’t say, you want Quicktime or iTunes, you’ve got to take Safari. That is the major different between Microsoft’s philosophy and Apple’s. The brou-ha-ha is hoh-hoh-horsepuckey.

      As for look and feel of ported programs, I received my copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 last night and while it runs much faster on my Intel machine, it doesn’t really look very Mac-like. It doesn’t really look Windows-like either, although certainly more that than this. There is an arrogance associated with monopoly (or nearly monopoly) status that rarely serves the end user. Thus far Apple has avoided it.

      Thus far.

      Another issue with Microsoft stuff is that they aren’t always forthcoming about what they’re sending you, such as the Windows Genuine Advantage update, which was essentially a spyware program that phoned “home” regularly. Home, of course, meaning Microsoft’s servers.

      Peace,
      Gene

    12. Paul-Joseph de Werk says:

      Add to that the fact that Safari was used at CanSecWest today to hack into the Mac Laptop in two minutes flat. Do we really want to be forced install something that unsecure? I don’t mind being given the option to install, but having it default to checked isn’t cool. Especially when a lot of times we tend to click “Install Updates” without really reading what’s being installed.

      http://www.engadget.com/2008/03/27/pwn-2-own-over-macbook-air-gets-seized-in-2-minutes-flat/

    13. Asa Dotzler says:

      >Certainly, their target isn’t Firefox so much as Internet Explorer,
      >which is clearly vulnerable.

      Why are you so confident. If I was Apple, I’d go after the users who have already shown a willingness to try alternative browsers. I’d go after the users who are most vocal online and influence other people’s technology decisions. It’s pretty clear to me that Apple gets the biggest and fastest gains by going after Firefox and Opera users, not by going after IE users.

      – A

    14. Josh Miller says:

      My issue isn’t so much with Apple pushing safari on people with iTunes updates but the persistence of which is happens. The first update requiest for iTunes and Quicktime, I unchecked Safari. I already use and love Firefox (plugs in baby), I don’t want Safari cluttering things up.

      After two more “updates” that consisted solely of “Do you want to download Safari?”, I finally gave in and said yes jut to make the thing stop bugging me.

      The second issue will become apparent when Apple starts toting that millions of people have started downloading Safari (even if they never use it). Yeah ok, technically they had a “choice” int he matter. They got to choose to download and install it, or they got to choose to be harassed by thier software updater. Nice choice.

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