PC users flock to Apple’s Safari

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In 1991, a very smart technology expert named Geoffrey A. Moore coined the phrase “crossing the chasm” to describe when technology moves from the “early adopters” to the general population.

Mr. Moore’s thesis, in a book with that title, is to help identify the factors that can make a product earn the coveted “mass market” status.

Last week, in the space of 48 hours, Apple Inc.’s Safari Web browser for Windows recorded 1 million downloads. Yes, the software is free, but to get a million people to do anything in that short a period of time is, I believe, rather impressive.

The question is whether Safari for Windows lives up to the hype Apple gives the program: “It displays your favorite Web sites’ pages faster than any other browser, and it’s full of innovative features that make browsing the Web easier than ever. All with the elegant simplicity and attention to detail that you find in IPod and ITunes.”

That pretty much sums it up. Under the hood is a browser that is elegant in its approach, albeit with slight differences from the Macintosh version because of differences in the operating system interface. It’s impressive, by the way, that Apple made the translation so easily, but, as the firm noted, it has already done this for ITunes, perhaps the world’s most pervasive Apple-designed program running on Windows PCs.

The Safari interface is simple: a gray bar at the top to display the Web page address, menus and features. Bookmarks drop down in a tab, while favorites can be displayed in their own menu bar.

You can display a status bar at the bottom of the page, but it’s off by default. The reason is the blue bar displayed in the Web address field when a page is loading, showing the operation’s progress.

At the top is also a built-in search field, which defaults to the Google search engine, although users can also select Yahoo as the engine of choice.

Everything on the Internet is not just a Web page, of course, and one feature of Safari many users will appreciate is the way it handles Really Simple Syndication, or RSS, “feeds.” These are “pushed” from a properly configured Web site to alert you to new items posted. (The Washington Times, for example, offers numerous RSS options at its Web site.) It’s a great way to stay current with changing news or other events.

Safari builds the RSS reader into the browser, and you can bookmark a particular topic search over a range of sources to be sure you get the latest news of interest on a given item. I like this better than a stand-alone RSS reader program, and even more than having RSS in e-mail, which is also possible with some mail-client software. It’s a useful feature to have, especially if you do much of your work via the Web, such as research.

By default, Safari will block “pop-up” windows, the popular and annoying ad medium. But if you direct your browser to a bank’s Web site and need to sign-in via pop-up, Safari will understand — don’t ask me how — and open that window for you. Security on Safari is very strong; there’s even a “private browsing” feature that lets you surf without leaving a trace.

In short, while Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 7 has flashiness, and Mozilla Firefox a loyal following, Safari for Windows will likely command a great deal of attention and deliver a strong challenge to these other two programs. Details, and the download, are at www.apple.com/safari.

{bullet} Read Mark Kellner’s Tech blog at www.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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