Another WWDC, another Steve Jobs keynote, and once again the desire for a Mac rages strong within me.
Maybe it’s just the outside-looking-in factor on my part, but there seems to be an awful lot of bile and dissatisfaction geared toward Apple this time around. Then again, it’d be hard to replicate the millennial euphoria that rippled out of January’s iPhone announcement. I attribute the weird attitude mostly to the fact that the WWDC is for developers and programmers, yet most of the features new to Leopard are clearly aimed at consumers. Jobs certainly didn’t win any points by equating a much longed-for iPhone SDK with common web apps. I’d imagine that if you’re a programmer, it’s hard not to look at that kind of spin as terribly condescending.
Aside from Leopard, the other big announcement is that Apple’s web browser, Safari, has come to Windows. This is, of course, a good thing. Apple pulls in more revenue from that integrated search bar and gets more mindshare among the Windows crowd, and users get more options. Still, my initial ten minutes with the beta didn’t do much to impress me. Whereas iTunes unseated Winamp in a matter of minutes, Safari only reinforces how perfect Firefox has become for me over the past five years. The Safari Windows beta is consciously designed to emulate a Mac OS experience, fancifully vanishing dialog boxes, Mac-style font smoothing, everything. It’s an interesting decision on Apple’s part, no doubt intended as a way to let people try a slice of the Mac OS and compare it, hopefully favorably, to the Windows experience. Still, I think the Safari beta has some problems that could damage this strategy.
The emulation of the Mac’s font smoothing is a bit of a mixed bag. I’d imagine that it looks incredible to the people who don’t use Cleartype, but for those of us who do, it’s apparent that there’s no right way to do font smoothing. It’s hard to say that Apple’s method is any better or worse than Microsoft’s, so the feature isn’t much of a dazzler. The beta also mimics the Mac’s corner-only window resizing convention, perhaps the only aspect of the Mac OS that has never made any damn sense to me.
In regard to bookmarks, the Safari Beta page claims, “Importing your current bookmarks couldn’t be simpler. In fact, the first time you open Safari, it imports all your bookmarks from the browsers you’ve been using. And if you want to import bookmarks later, just choose Import Bookmarks from the File menu.” Alas, both of these sentences are lies. Safari neither performed an automated initial import of my bookmarks (from IE or Firefox) nor successfully imported them when I tried to do it manually. To be fair, this is an open beta, but the the bookmark issue is of paramount importance. The Firefox team, for instance, knew that it had to perfect bookmark importing before its landmark 1.0 release in November of 2004. There once was a time when I might have been willing to take care of this stuff by hand or hunt down a novel solution, but I’m a much busier person now, and I already have the perfect browser.
On the bright side, Safari is awfully zippy. It handles Google Maps noticeably faster than Firefox. I suppose with Apple’s brand clout, having Safari on Windows can only serve to damage Microsoft’s share of the market. I doubt that Safari will do much to sway satisfied Firefox users away from their browser, and indeed, I intend to keep Firefox when I switch to the Mac. It’s a nice first effort, however.