Pop quiz time. Please sharpen your number 2 pencils and complete the following sentence:
What the world needs now is
a) love sweet love
b) more media coverage of Paris Hilton behind bars
c) another Windows browser.
If you answered "c" you'll probably like Apple's Safari 3.0, now available in XP, Vista, and Original Mac Recipe. As for the rest of you, well, have you heard about Paris's latest public breakdown?
The new Safari beta brings some nifty features to Windows surfers, along with security holes big enough to swallow Steve Jobs' Mercedes. Security researchers claim to have found 18 vulnerabilities within 12 hours of the browser's debut, including some that would allow remote attackers to compromise a machine running Safari. It's gratifying to see Apple fitting so well into the traditional Windows framework.
Safari's biggest claim is that its rendering engine is faster than the rest; in my own extremely unscientific tests I found it a smidge quicker than Firefox, but nothing worth changing your boxers over. And as for IE, Opera, Netscape, and Mozilla... who cares?
The 'Snapback' feature, which lets you jump quickly back to your search results when you get lost following a Google thread, is a nice addition. There's a very cool bug feedback button, which has probably been getting a bit more action than Apple anticipated. And Safari has parental controls, which Firefox lacks, though they are grayed out and unavailable on my Windows XP system.
When I asked an Apple minion what was up with the ghostly controls, he replied they were there "to enable the parental control features built into Leopard." In other words, that other operating system that isn't Windows. You get the feeling maybe they rushed this thing out the door so Mr. Turtleneck would have something new to talk about at the WWDC?
The question is really how much of Firefox's lunch Safari will eat. My guess is maybe the snack and some of the fruit. Unlike iTunes, Safari brings nothing essential that Windows browsers don't already have. IE haters have already switched to Firefox, and true Apple diehards already use Macs.
Safari could benefit from the introduction of the iPhone, which will have the browser embedded. There may be cool widgety things that work well on the iPhone and Safari and not so well on other browsers; that could bring a few Windows converts to the fold. Will that include all 10 million iPhone users Jobs plans to have by the end of 2008? Don't bet on it.
Apple may call it Safari, but this dog won't hunt.
Is Apple's browser a bowser? Email me your opinions. And please, check your flamethrowers at the door.