Safari for Windows: Ca-Ching!

by Scot Hacker

Like many people, I've been trying to wrap my head around the motivations behind yesterday's release of Safari for Windows. With iTunes for Windows, it was a slam dunk - you can't sell iPods and tracks to people who can't reach your platform. But with Safari, it's not quite as clear cut. What exactly is Apple selling? Ostensibly, it's about giving Windows developers access to Webkit, the browser engine that will be running on the iPhone. But I don't buy that that's the whole reason. Developers are just too small an audience to warrant the work it must have taken to do the port, and to support it going forward (after all, they could have given developers Webkit without porting the whole browser).

Then there's the old "gateway drug" argument - give Windows users enough tastes of Mac elegance - and in this case a faster browser than anything available on Windows right now (Apple claims Safari 3 is twice as fast as Internet Explorer 7 on Windows, and 1.6 times faster than Firefox 2) - and eventually they'll wander over to take a closer look at the whole enchilada. But how many Windows users are going to care? Those who care enough about security and extensibility to try another browser are already using FireFox, and Safari doesn't have FF's thriving plugin landscape going for it. Speed alone isn't going to cut it.

So... Apple is going to end up with a tiny percentage of developers and geeks running Safari on Windows. And this benefits Apple how? I was thinking there must be another shoe ready to drop, lurking stage left. Then I read John Gruber's notes on the keynote, and it all started to make sense.

"It's not widely publicized, but those integrated search bars in web browser toolbars are revenue generators. When you do a Google search from Safari's toolbar, Google pays Apple a portion of the ad revenue from the resulting page. ... The same goes for Mozilla (and, I presume, just about every other mainstream browser.) ... For example, the Mozilla Foundation earned over $50 million in search engine ad revenue in 2005, mostly from Google. ... Apple is currently generating about $2 million per month from Safari's Google integration. That's $25 million per year. If Safari for Windows is even moderately successful, it's easy to see how that might grow to $100 million per year or more. "

So there's the other shoe. Obviously, Webkit for Windows is essential to iPhone developers, and there's certainly the possibility of Safari turning a few Windows users onto the Mac. But Safari/Win actually is selling something to the public - eyeballs for Google. And that's the secret sauce that makes it all worthwhile.


2007-06-12 09:20:20
Doesn't iTunes already use webkit?
Scot Hacker
2007-06-12 09:39:29
Brooks - As far as I can tell from a quick, ahem, Google search, the answer is no - iTunes does not use Webkit (though arguably it should - the fact that iTunes does not use a web engine makes iTunes largely inaccessible to the blind).
Nigel Hall
2007-06-12 10:50:45
I think the Safari port to Windows is to give iPhone users a consistent interface for applications that are going to be developed for the new platform. If new apps look horrible when viewed through IE or Firefox on Windows, it will reflect badly on the iPhone. Safari on Windows will give iPhone app users a consistent, and presumably superior, look and feel, no matter what platform they use. Apple did the same thing with the iPod. Porting iTunes to Windows ensured the iPod was appealing to more than existing customers. Safari on Windows acheives the same goal, only for applications that we don't know about yet.
Andreas Bachofen
2007-06-12 11:06:32
I wonder if plugins like Inquisitor get the money if they "hijack" the search engine field or if it's still Apple cashing for the ad revenue.
Scot Hacker
2007-06-12 11:16:45
Andreas - That would be a matter of the plugin developer setting up relationships with the search engines, and including their own IDs in the query strings (overriding the Safari-inserted query string).
Matthew Sporleder
2007-06-12 11:25:51
I just tried it and think it's pretty sweet. I don't think I'll be switching away from firefox on windows, (FF seems to use less memory on my system, and XUL runs really well on windows) but it's definitely cool.
2007-06-12 12:29:02
Another possibility is that Safari for Windows will be used to sync bookmarks with iPhone. If iPhone becomes even remotely as popular with Windows users as the iPod, I think we'll see a sharp increase in Safari market share, just like we did with the iTunes/iPod combo before.
2007-06-12 12:42:04
Does Google share ad revenue with Microsoft when the search is from an IE toolbar?
2007-06-12 13:01:52
It's obviously so that people can develop iPhone apps without a Mac.
2007-06-12 13:03:28
Don't you want a browser that has majority of market share and works with the majority of websites? Giving Safari to the Windows world makes it much better for the Native Apple population (Macs and iPhone). It is a brilliant move.
Scot Hacker
2007-06-12 13:16:47
Kurien: Probably.

Mike: Umm.... like I said in the blog entry, "Ostensibly, it's about giving Windows developers access to Webkit, the browser engine that will be running on the iPhone. But I don't buy that that's the whole reason."

Craig: Yes, this is a nice side effect, but I don't think that reason would have provided enough motivation. Direct revenue, on the other hand....

2007-06-12 16:34:23
And you really think that John Gruber is some guru strategist? Give me a break, he's a developer not the CEO of a Fortune 500 company! No offense John Gruber but I don't at all buy the idea that Apple is trying to make a few more million (look at their overall revenues from iPods and Macs). Give me a break.
Scot Hacker
2007-06-12 21:07:22
Jonas - Whether Gruber is a developer or a businessman is unimportant. By that logic, no one (including you) should be able to have a valid opinion/analysis of anything they're not an expert in. The question is, are his facts right? And if so, do they lead to a plausible conclusion? If his numbers are right (and he's getting them from other sources), think about it for a second. How dumb would a company have to be to NOT spare the time of a couple of developers in exchange for $100 million/year?
TQ White II
2007-06-12 21:55:46
It's so that Apple has a code beachhead. They need a program that their Windows customers can use that will for sure do anything that Apple wants and work correctly. It's sort of like iTunes except it's a general purpose web interface, not just for media. It's good for iPhones, but it will be eventually be important for all of their products.
2007-06-12 22:28:39
I think there is no "single" reason. iPhone is one of the reasons, Google revenue might be another. Another reason I believe why they did is is so Windows websites developers can easily make sure their website works on a Mac on Safari. I'm pretty sure there are "future" reasons we don't know yet.
Scot Hacker
2007-06-12 22:31:54
Carlos, of course you're right - all of these reasons work together. I didn't mean to sound like I thought Gruber's reason was the only reason - only that it was the only one that made sense to me from an immediately apparent bottom line perspective - one that doesn't seem to be getting much press, for whatever reason.
jeremiah foster
2007-06-14 16:08:49
An Apple press release says 1 million download of Safari on Windows in 48 hours. Google will be sharing more revenue with Apple.
2007-06-19 16:35:16
I'm using Safari on Winblows now. The memory footprint is 90MB, whereas the memory footprint for FireFox is about 600MB. (Yes, I've tuned FireFox, and got rid of nasty plugins.)

More importantly to me: How did they develop Safari for Windows? XCode, or Visual Studio. I would hope they say XCode in Objective-C using Cocoa libraries . I would really like to write a apps that runs in both MacOS X and Windows, but with the MacOS X interface using XCode and Objective-C/Cocoa.

Does anyone know?