Week in review: Apple invites Windows users to Safari

Apple urges Windows users to try the Safari Web browser and invites applications developers to spend some time with the iPhone.

Apple is laying out the welcome mat.

The company is inviting Windows users to sample its Safari Web browser and urging third-party developers to try their hand at the iPhone. A beta version of Safari for Windows is available now, CEO Steve Jobs announced during his keynote speech at the company's 2007 Worldwide Developers Conference. Safari will also allow Web developers to create applications for the iPhone using common Web development standards that can interact with the rest of the applications that will ship with the iPhone.

Jobs previewed several features that will be shipped with Leopard, the next version of Mac OS X, which is scheduled for launch in October and will be priced at $129. One new feature is called Stacks, which lets Mac OS X users see the files inside a folder in the dock, the row of application icons usually found at the bottom of the desktop screen, making it easier to find files without having to open a lot of application windows.

Jobs also showed off a new version of Finder that uses its Cover Flow technology to enable Mac users to browse for files on their computers using an interface similar to the one used in iTunes for scrolling through songs or movies.

While the Mac community had been awaiting more news on Leopard, the Safari news was unexpected; the software became available Monday on Apple's Web site for Windows users as a free beta version. Jobs reckons that allowing Windows users to download the browser will help boost market share the same way that making iTunes available for Windows users helped that application.

The new version, Safari 3, is also the key to allowing application developers to create third-party applications for the hotly anticipated iPhone, which is set to go on sale at 6 p.m. in each time zone on June 29, Jobs announced.

However, within hours of Apple's public release of the beta for Safari 3.0 for Windows, three security researchers independently found holes within the new browser, prompting Apple to release a couple of updates to plug vulnerabilities.

While some developers may relish the chance to create iPhone applications using common Web development standards, this is not what many mobile-phone developers were hoping to hear. Unlike other mobile-device makers, Apple has chosen not to set up a software development kit or support community for iPhone applications at this time.

Call it the iPhone compromise--Apple is giving developers a chance to get their wares on the iPhone, but not every application will work properly inside a browser without native support. The decision means Apple has a better chance of guaranteeing application security and reliability on the native applications it does allow on the iPhone, but it falls short of what other smart-phone companies--notably Nokia--offer mobile-application developers.

The news certainly wasn't welcomed among CNET News.com readers.

"In other words, the iPhone will remain an expensive toy unless/until they change their mind," wrote one reader to News.com's TalkBack forum.

If you are looking for a place to buy an iPhone, Jobs has a suggestion: head to an AT&T store rather than Apple's own retail outlets. A CNET News.com survey of 75 Apple and AT&T stores indicates that it may be a wise approach.

Piracy and privacy
A court decision reached last month but under seal until last week could force Web sites to track visitors if the sites become defendants in a lawsuit. TorrentSpy, a popular BitTorrent search engine, was ordered on May 29 by a federal judge to create logs detailing users' activities on the site. The judge, Jacqueline Chooljian, however, granted a stay of the order to allow TorrentSpy to file an appeal.

The Motion Picture Association of America, which represents Columbia Pictures and other top Hollywood film studios, sued TorrentSpy and a host of others in February 2006 as part of a sweep against file-sharing companies. According to the MPAA, the search engine was sued for allegedly making it easier to download pirated files.

The groundbreaking ruling, if allowed to stand, may mean that anyone defending themselves in a civil suit could be required to turn over information in their computer's RAM hardware, which could force companies and individuals to store vast amounts of data, say technology experts. Roaming the Web anonymously was already nearly impossible. This ruling, which brings up serious privacy issues, could make it a lot harder.

Google and its YouTube subsidiary are also in Hollywood's crosshairs. The search engine has made significant progress in recent weeks signing content partnership deals for YouTube. But a growing number of studio executives, irritated by no-shows at meetings and canceled test programs, say they are frustrated with Google's inability to scrub the site of copyright-infringing material.

Adding to the agitation, copyright-filtering technology is already in use at smaller video sites such as Guba, Dailymotion.com and Eyespot. Even Microsoft has installed the features that Hollywood is clambering for. So why not YouTube?

Increasingly, media executives are wondering whether the video-sharing giant is doing its best to come up with copyright-protection technology or playing a game of chicken in which billions in sales and perhaps the future of copyright law is at stake.

On the Hill
The Bush administration blasted a congressional proposal that would shield a broad swath of news gatherers, including some bloggers, from revealing their confidential sources. A Department of Justice official told Congress that the latest draft of the Free Flow of Information Act would pose a grave threat to national security and federal criminal investigations by protecting far too large a segment of the population.

Justice Department opposition has bedeviled Congress throughout its numerous attempts in recent years to enact federal shield laws. Supporters say such legislation is needed in light of high-profile cases involving former New York Times reporter Judith Miller and what free-press advocacy groups characterize as a sharp rise in subpoenas to reporters in recent years.

And while there are few defenders of those rapidly multiplying taxes and fees at the end of your phone bills every month, senators from rural states that benefit from the mandatory levies attacked a proposal to cap those taxes.

At issue is whether those unpopular taxes, which flow into a pool of money called the Universal Service Fund, have spiraled out of control. Last month, a federal panel recommended some temporary caps on funding for wireless providers--which would effectively keep in place the 2006 level of $1 billion.

The federal panel's proposal would rein in the Universal Service Fund, which overall doled out more than $7.3 billion last year alone to subsidize telephone service in rural and low-income areas and in schools and libraries. Since its inception during the Clinton administration, the fund has been plagued by waste, fraud and abuse.

Also of note
A failed real estate speculator who created a popular Web site touting his exploits has begun threatening to sue his critics and claims to be in hiding in Australia...Sony will soon be selling a line of televisions specifically for Wal-Mart, Target and other discount retailers...Adobe Systems released a beta version of software that makes Web-native applications operate like desktop programs.

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