Apple invites Windows users on Safari

Mac maker announces a free public test version of its Web browser for Windows users. Is it destined to be another crossover hit?

Apple is hoping for another crossover hit.

After bringing iTunes over to Windows, the Mac maker announced on Monday that it is also making its Safari Web browser available for users of Microsoft's operating system. The company released a "public beta" version of Safari 3.0 that runs on Windows XP and Windows Vista, as well as on Mac OS X Tiger.

When Apple first announced plans to bring iTunes to Windows PCs in October 2003, CEO Steve Jobs characterized the move as hell freezing over. These days, though, Apple does much of its work with the Windows world in mind.

Its iPod is used by far more Windows users than Mac users, and its iTunes media player software has been downloaded more than 500 million times by Windows users, Jobs said in his keynote speech on Monday at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.

But the main impetus for bringing Safari to Windows may be the fact that Apple is also pitching Safari and Web-based applications as the way to write programs that run on the iPhone. So given that it is already pouring resources into the browser, trying to get more return on that investment makes sense, analysts said.

Gartner analyst Mike McGuire said the decision to move Safari to Windows is about the iPhone "as much as anything."

McGuire said Safari has some interesting features but added that it is not clear whether that will get it a spot in the Windows Start menu of most PC users.

"You've got to wonder how much people are willing to be promiscuous with the number of browsers they run," McGuire said.

In addition to Microsoft's dominant Internet Explorer browser, Apple also finds itself competing against Mozilla's open-source Firefox browser.

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