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Friday, June 15, 2007

Apple Picks a Fight It Can't Win

The insular Apple universe is a relatively gentle place, an Athenian utopia where Apple's occasional missteps are forgiven, all partake of the many blessings of citizenship, and everyone feels like they're part of an Apple-created golden age of lofty ideas and superior design. But the Windows world isn't like that. It's a cold, unforgiving place where nothing is sacred, users turn like rabid wolves on any company that makes even the smallest error, and no prisoners are taken.

Apple sent its first emissary, the beta version of Safari for Windows, into the Windows browser market, and it was unceremoniously kicked into the well.

This is no Athens. THIS IS SPARTA.

Comments:

Blogger Rob Potts said...

Please do your research before posting drivel. Apple did not release Safari to compete with IE or FireFox. They did it to facilitate iPhone development through the use of their WebKit.

Friday, June 15, 2007 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger rossi said...

I admire the strategy of posting ridiculous articles to drive traffic to your blog. Enjoy the ad revenue, you're a smart man if a poor writer.

First of all, your assertion that this is a 'mature market' is both myopic and smacks of misunderstanding of technology. Did they say that about MP3's before the iPod came out? The walkman? The cellphone? Netscape Navigator? Please.

Secondly, I don't think that anyone beyond you would dispute for one second that the likely mission of this browser is to introduce iPhone users (yes I'm sure you'll have an article smacking that one around, too) to the browser they will use on their phone. And that includes the developers who are rushing to utilize the webkit.

Does Apple "control" the computing market? With 5%, um, no. But you seem to create a false argument here in an attempt to prove your thesis that "Apple will fail". Why not look up the iPod for some history and see if you can revise that, too.

Defining "fail" is what you "failed" to do, other than point out some flaws in a BETA. As legit as those flaws (addressed nearly overnight with an update), you move from there to entirely subjective criticisms like font rendering (this is a subjective thing as many Windows users prefer the smoother fonts of Mac) and the "Mac-like" appearance.

Are these subjective nits "proof" of a failure? Perhaps a good reason for some users to stick with IE, but again, define "failure". (Firefox has what, 12% of the market--are they a failure?)

This is nothing more than a late addition to the pile-on party against Apple.

Gleeful as it must feel to find a crack in the sheen of the company that has eaten Windows lunch for a couple of years and makes it hurt with some dead-on advertising, you're going to have to look a little harder for "failure" and set your arguments up with more than a red herring or two.

Finally, Sparta isn't a very good comparison for Windows inhabitants when the apologists do nothing more than attack their competition in desperation rather than cold fact.

Friday, June 15, 2007 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger Justin said...

GREAT article. I think the MP3 market was semi "established" and you do point out that Safari for Windows is really about supporting the iPhone (per the first odd comment here)

I chuckled though on Sparta. I was just scratching my head thinking "Why the heck would Apple put a browser on Windows and get sucked into all that negative security publicity they've largely avoided?" This helped.

Apple could have put a real thorn into MSFT's side by leveraging Firefox. I use a Mac and have never liked Safari. Heck, they don't have tabs for Safari till now, no tabs for iChat. Ironic that the "anti - Windows" companies was so into creating Windows!

Friday, June 15, 2007 11:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't heard this possible take on the browser issue yet: Apple has released Safari due to the dual use of both Mac and PC operating systems Leopard/Vista or XP. If I owned a Mac or Apple computer, wouldn't Apple want me using their browser whether I was in Mac or PC mode? Just a thought...and along those lines...a lot of Windows users saw for the first time a lot of Apple ads and material when they loaded Safari on their computer for the first time.

Friday, June 15, 2007 2:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Jan said...

The mobile companies often don't provide the means to develop and install native code (the machine code of the phone). It is therefore not possible to develop real stuff such as video-telephone applications. People should look for more customisable (open) phones such as the OpenMoko.
I'm not sure wether this was intentional, but comparing windows users with spartans is more a critique of Microsoft than a critique of Apple :-D

Saturday, June 16, 2007 5:07:00 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

***** Please do your research before posting drivel. Apple did not release Safari to compete with IE or FireFox. They did it to facilitate iPhone development through the use of their WebKit. *****

Steve Jobs announced Safari for Windows by saying this:

"If you look at the world of browsers, Internet Explorer is about 78%, Firefox 15%, Safari 5%, other 2% -- we would love for Safari's market share to grow substantially. But how are we gonna do that? Safari for Windows!"

The one and only reason given by Apple's CEO for releasing Safari for Windows was to "compete with IE or FireFox."

Mike

Saturday, June 16, 2007 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

RESPONSE TO ROSSI:

***** your assertion that this is a 'mature market' is both myopic and smacks of misunderstanding of technology. *****

It's certainly "mature" in comparison with most other markets Apple has entered when it entered them -- usually Apple creates them.


***** I don't think that anyone beyond you would dispute for one second that the likely mission of this browser is to introduce iPhone users .... to the browser they will use on their phone. *****

Well, at least ONE other person has disputed that, namely Steve Jobs, who gave only one reason for releasing Safari for Windows. He said: "If you look at the world of browsers, Internet Explorer is about 78%, Firefox 15%, Safari 5%, other 2% -- we would love for Safari's market share to grow substantially. But how are we gonna do that? Safari for Windows!"

***** Does Apple "control" the computing market? With 5%, um, no. *****

You missed my point entirely. I wrote that Apple doesn't compete directly in the "computing market" -- it created the Mac market, and controls the Mac market.

***** But you seem to create a false argument here in an attempt to prove your thesis that "Apple will fail". Why not look up the iPod for some history and see if you can revise that, too. *****

iPod is one of the examples I used to contrast and highlight the difference between the markets where Apple plays (like Mac, iPod and others where Apple controls the platform, distribution, etc.) and the Windows browser market. My article was very, very clear on all that.

***** Defining "fail" is what you "failed" to do, other than point out some flaws in a BETA. *****

You're right. I didn't do that in my column, but I'll do it here: Let's define failure as failure to beat Firefox's market share.

***** As legit as those flaws (addressed nearly overnight with an update), you move from there to entirely subjective criticisms like font rendering (this is a subjective thing as many Windows users prefer the smoother fonts of Mac) and the "Mac-like" appearance. *****

Those aren't my criticisms. I listed them as examples as how unforgiving Windows users are, in contrast to Mac users who tend to excuse and forgive such things when Apple does them, but not when other companies do them, and also as examples of how much Windows users hate it when Apple brings Mac UI elements into Windows.

***** Gleeful as it must feel to find a crack in the sheen of the company that has eaten Windows lunch for a couple of years and makes it hurt with some dead-on advertising, you're going to have to look a little harder for "failure" and set your arguments up with more than a red herring or two. *****

Spoken like a true religious zealot. Sure, Mac market share has grown recently, and at the expense of Windows. But Windows' 91% versions Mac's 6.38% hardly constitutes Mac "eating Windows' lunch." Jesus.

***** Finally, Sparta isn't a very good comparison for Windows inhabitants when the apologists do nothing more than attack their competition in desperation rather than cold fact. *****

You succeed again in your attempt to mis-understand my column. The "Sparta" reference is clearly about contrasting the critical environment among Windows users to *everyone* -- especially Microsoft -- with the forgiving environment of Apple users toward Apple.

Mike

Saturday, June 16, 2007 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

***** Apple could have put a real thorn into MSFT's side by leveraging Firefox. *****

Oh, man. You're not kidding.

Apple entering the Windows browser market is the best thing that ever happened to Microsoft. Apple's marketshare will come mostly from Firefox market share.

Mike

Saturday, June 16, 2007 11:14:00 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

***** I'm not sure wether this was intentional, but comparing windows users with spartans is more a critique of Microsoft than a critique of Apple *****

I don't think there's any question that the legendary loyalty of Apple's fan base is a great thing for Apple, and Microsoft's total failure to garner than kind of loyalty is a horrible thing for Microsoft.

So, yes, I would be happy to criticize Microsoft for its failure to thrill customers as much as Apple has. But it wasn't meant as a criticism, only as a fact of life.

Mike

Saturday, June 16, 2007 11:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike,

Your article below is very interesting, but it seems to be making the same mistake many Windows-leaning people made in the past while second guessing Apple's intentions and chances.

But when Apple asserts its “superior” user interface conventions in a Windows context where everyone is used to and comfortable with the Microsoft way, bad things happen.

Really?
Is Apple asserting?
What bad things will happen?
Is everyone in the Windows world really comfortable with the Microsoft way? So why has Microsoft attempted to change that beloved stable world via VISTA? Or are "bad things" happening to VISTA because Microsoft changed some of the Microsoft ways? In fact, why did Microsoft risk the displeasure of comfortable users by changing from the well loved Windows 3.11 backin 1995?

But on a browser, Apple will need to do things the Windows way or get eaten alive.

Really? Get eaten alive by.....? Mac users who also happen to use Windows and would like to have Safari experience on all platforms? New iPhone users who will install Safari mainly for getting full value out of their special new phones? Mixed platform environments where choice is already a given and where people already move easily between both platforms? Safari users on MacOS who also happen to run Windows emulation software on their Mac and would rather stay with the same browser whatever the environment?

When did Apple's very life become so intertwined with Safari that failure of Safari on Windows (even with continuing Safari success on the Mac) will mean the kiss of death?

But I think Safari will get slaughtered in the bare-knuckled brawl that is the Windows browser market.
Apple may believe that it can enter and dominate at least the “alternative” Windows browser market as it did the media player space. But this is an entirely new and unfamiliar world for Apple. Direct competition on a level-playing field that Apple doesn’t control just isn’t Apple’s thing.

What a stretch. Slaughter must have acquired a new meaning lately. Apple never said they wanted to dominate the browser space. All that Apple stated as its goal with Safari on Windows is to grow the browser's market share. And there are enough cross-platform users to ensure that. Also, it has since become clear that what Apple really wants to do is simply ensure that iPhone users who may be Windows-only users can take advantage of Safari-based iPhone applications.

It is simply difficult for a fair-minded reader to even understand how you came by the title of this article: Apple picks a fight it can't win. What fight?

Direct competition on a level-playing field that Apple doesn’t control just isn’t Apple’s thing.

Apple does not control the brick-and-mortar retail space. When Apple muted the idea of Apple Stores, which was an attempt to compete on a very level and very brutal retail space, critics gave the company zero chance. Apple entered a hopeless open space and made something hopeful for itself there, while others fell away. Apple knows how to compete on a level playing field: it just makes itself and the value it offers stand out on a level playing field.

Apple does not stand still. Unlike you, I believe they will achieve their stated objective with Safari on Windows which has nothing to do with domination. And by listening to their customers and to commentators like you, they will keep improving Safari without doing "things the Windows way"

If you are as a close an Apple watcher as some parts of your essay would suggest, you must know that it is a very dangerous thing to bet against Apple.


Nd

Sunday, June 17, 2007 4:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FYI. As per an incorrect fact int the article... You don't have to use iTunes on Windows to manage your iPod. A company called "Red Chair Software" makes a toolset that allows virtually any popular MP3 player to be managed with Windows Explorer integration.

The app was originally written to free Nomad Jukebox users from the horrible software that came bundled with it. I can't stand iTunes. If I ever bought an iPod or a Zune, I'd get this application (I used it before my Nomad died).

Sunday, June 17, 2007 10:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting article, and thanks for it. I don't think the world really needs another web browser for the
Windows crowd. We've already got
Firefox, and nobody's topped it yet.
I've tried Safari, and it's definitely no Firefox. I don't need
an iPhone and I don't have an iPod,
so I don't need Safari either...

Sunday, June 17, 2007 9:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The target market for Safari for Windows is not primarily the Windows folks who want to try the latest web browser. All the talk about it being faster and compliant etc is to create enough interest to make it RELEVANT.

I still can't get on to certain sites that really only offer IE support and nothing else. By creating a bigger (or more importantly, a relevant) market share means Safari (ie mainly Mac) users will not be ignored all of the time.

Safari will succeed. You just have to be mindful as to what Apple really counts as success - where the motivation truly lies.

Monday, June 18, 2007 12:04:00 AM  

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