WWDC Delivers the Goods — and a Hot Safari!
Much to the disappointment of the eternally optimistic and eternally high-hoped Apple fans, as was really expected, Steve didn’t reveal anything surprisingly new about Leopard in his WWDC keynote. At last count on MacRumors, the positive:negative voting on Leopard was running 1:1 and has been all day. Reading the comments, it seems most people expected more, expected some revolutionary “top secret” feature. Instead, they just got some more eye candy, a few things they already knew about, and a bit of spit and polish on Finder (not the overhaul it needs). As was predicted on Apple Matters a couple of months ago, there were no top secret features worth being top secret. Just a lot of features that weren’t working at the last demo and so couldn’t be shown. Certainly nothing that would have sent Microsoft rushing to the workbench to bolt onto Vista if it had found out.
I can understand the disappointment; however, I’m happy with Leopard because I’ve learned not to get my hopes up. Apple always under delivers on both what we hope for and what we rumor. But it always delivers a good solid OS with some nifty new features. Leopard was on par.
If you want a revolution from Apple, you’ve got to look to hardware. The original Mac, the G4 iMac (a design revolution), the iPod, and now the iPhone: all revolutions that changed the way we think about the devices they represent. OS X on the other hand has never been a revolution. Yes, it’s always been at least one generation ahead of the pack, but how much about it has truly been revolutionary and forced us to do an about-face on our thinking about OSes?
But two lesser announcements during the keynote could have more impact than Leopard and all its 300 improvements, and start their own mini-revolutions.
The first was EA Games and id Games not deserting the Mac platform now that it runs Windows (as many feared would happen), but in fact ramping up development for the Mac platform. We’ve yet to see how their games will fly in the real world but, with so many PC users saying they couldn’t switch to Mac because of its lack of decent games, this was quite a significant announcement for Apple and I was surprised by the tepid response from the WWDC audience.
Safari goes into the jungle
The biggest news though—especially in terms of surprise—was the announcement of Safari for Windows. Our very own visionary, Hadley Stern, three and a half years ago called for Apple to port Safari to Windows, and that was long before Macintels. Of course he was scoffed at mercilessly. Congratulations Hadley, you were right on the money.
But some of those readers back then asked what would be the point? Now, iPhone is one point. And our old friend “halo effect.” Zillions of iPhone users will use and become familiar with Safari. This will open them up to using Safari on Windows—along with Apple undoubtedly and unashamedly flogging it through iTMS.
However, does it really matter? It doesn’t unless Apple is really serious about increasing its Mac market share. Apple is leveraging off iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and now Safari. Do you get the impression Steve is after double digit market share? And to those who feared the demise of the Mac as Apple dropped the “Computer” from its name and talked of iPhones and iPods, fear not.
It will, however, be interesting to watch the uptake of Safari on Windows. Page compatibility will be its stumbling block to longer term acceptance. And don’t listen to the Windows geeks who say they’ll never use it. It’s the iPhone and iPod users Apple is after.
It will also be interesting to see if the miscreants target it and whether that will have a flow on effect to Safari on the Mac.
Safari 3 SCREAMS!
This article was intended to be all about Safari 3 and a bit of a “First Looks” review of it. I originally titled it “Safari 3—Is this the browser we’ve been waiting for?” (Answer: nearly.) So I hope you can cope with a few more words than usual.
I’ve been running Safari 3 all day and fervently testing it to give you some impressions of it.
My first impression, and one that continues, is “Holy crapoly, this thing is fast!” Most web pages are now loading in a blink. I’ve seen so many browsers claim to be sooo much faster, yet when used, it’s not overly perceptible. With Safari 3, it’s so fast you’ll think Apple has found a shortcut through the web—or at least been able to magically cache your page before you even type in its address.
What’s more, it works more. Not on all pages, but certainly some that Safari 2 doesn’t work on. So you will still need Firefox in your kit. One problem though, of Firefox of late, is it “beachballs” and crashes under heavy load. I’m lucky if it survives more than 20 open pages.
And speaking of beachballs, which were a problem in Safari 2 also, I’ve hardly encountered them in Safari 3. Except for one odd spot: when switching through the menus it lags a bit.
Anyway, I thought I’d push Safari 3 off the cliff of overload doom and see how many open web pages it could cope with. First I threw one window with 30 tabs at it. It barely blinked. Noticeably, it didn’t hit virtual memory much either. I added another window with 60 tabs. You could almost hear it scoffing at me. Virtual memory was still below 1GB. That is significant as Safari 2 sucks virtual memory like Microsoft sucks up small software companies and spits them out as “innovation.” Virtual memory sitting over 1GB in Safari 2 is commonplace on my Mac. And Firefox is just as bad. In fact, I got Firefox up to 6GB yesterday!
I decided to get ruthless and opened seven windows and between them had nearly two hundred tabs open. Okay, finally Safari acknowledged my presence and I got to play with the beachball for a while. Eventually, though, it gave me back a mouse pointer. Unlike Firefox which simply crashes.
Speaking of which, I haven’t had Safari 3 crash yet. Although I did have to force quit it when I tried to close the last window—which happened to have 68 tabs. I’ll allow it that one, as it probably did it just to spite me, and I’ll never put it under that much stress in normal use. After all, it did hit 2.2GB of virtual memory and 600MB of real memory with those 200 pages open.
Other good and the bad of Safari 3
The good news is better memory management; inline searches - which true to Apple form, look pretty good - although it doesn’t search in fields; tabs can be moved around; tabs are on by default; you get prompted before closing multiple tabs (YAYYY!); streaming Flash video is possibly more reliable; and you can reopen the last closed window or all windows from the last session. The biggest plus for me—who types addresses because my bookmarks are overloaded—is when typing in the address bar, it offers you the domain name first! Safari 2 drove me nuts having to type out the whole domain name and press space because it decided I must surely want to see some other obscure page on a site.
Although Safari 3 comes with an uninstaller, it does replace your existing Safari 2 installation, so you can’t run both side by side.
The bad news is that pre-Leopard, it only works on OS X 10.4.9 (yet works on MS’s four-year-old Windows XP…); many sites, including one of my banks, still don’t work and/or render properly but do in Firefox; private browsing still doesn’t offer any controls over what you disable; it’s still brushed metal (surely not in Leopard!); and tabs don’t scroll. That is particularly annoying, as pages off the tab bar have no visible tab—which means, for instance, you can’t drag them around or click their close button.
Reports on MacRumor have identified security issues. We trust Apple will address these promptly; however, this does remind us to be cautious with betas.
The RSS reader is said to be improved but I’ve always used NetNewsWire. However, I’m going to give it a go because I am so over RSS saturation. I’ll check NetNewsWire every day or two, but from now on use Safari’s RSS for the two or three feeds I do want to monitor constantly. I suspect this is what Safari’s RSS reader is best suited for, and Apple may have accidentally been ahead of the pack on this.
Safari 3, once it improves its web page compatibility, will be the best browser. It’s certainly now the fastest. It is beta and does have those security issues, so approach it with the same caution you would any beta.
And some laughs
Well, there were two huge announcements at WWDC that dwarfed everything else, albeit made in jest. First “Steve Job” aka “PC Guy” saying he’s shutting down Apple and “Steve Ballmer” aka Phil Schiller saying he loves his Mac. I nearly fell off my chair laughing at both of those.
Lastly, congratulations Apple. For the first time ever the keynote streamed flawlessly—no stutters and no scrambled picture. And I was able to pause it without having to restart it…multiple times!
This WWDC keynote was a lot of fun, showed us the next generation OS with some excellent advances, and—with games and Safari—launched a serious assault on Windows. I suspect we’ll have a lot more to talk about in the next six months than the last six.