The browser wars are starting again. Apple on Tuesday launched the public beta of Safari 4. The maker of the Mac is billing its latest browser version as the world's fastest and most innovative for both Mac and Windows PCs. Analysts said Apple is right to brag about its latest innovations.
The Safari 4 beta comes with a slew of new features that aim to make browsing more intuitive and enjoyable. Top Sites, for example, offers a visual preview of
frequently visited pages. Full History Search lets you search through titles, Web addresses and the complete text of recently viewed pages. And Cover Flow lets you flip through Web history or bookmarks much the same way you flip through your album covers on the iPod.
"Apple created Safari to bring innovation, speed and open standards back into Web browsers, and today it takes another big step forward," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing. "Safari 4 is the fastest and most efficient browser for Mac and Windows, with great integration of HTML 5 and CSS 3 Web standards that enables the next generation of interactive Web applications."
The Lightning Round
"It's hard to innovate on the browsing experience these days. It's simple. It's familiar. It works. But Apple really has done some nice stuff with the Safari 4 beta," said Michael Gartenberg, vice president of strategy and analysis at Interpret. "I have only been using it for a few minutes, but it definitely feels like there's a speed bump here."
Beyond the speed, Apple has also integrated nine new key features in Safari 4. Tabs on Top aims to offer better tabbed browsing with drag-and-drop tab management tools and an intuitive button for opening new ones. The Smart Address Field automatically completes Web addresses by displaying an easy-to-read list of suggestions from Top Sites, bookmarks and browsing history. And Smart Search Field lets users fine-tune searches with recommendations from Google Suggest or a list of recent searches.
What's more, Full Page Zoom offers a closer look at any Web site without degrading the quality of the site's layout and text. Built-in Web developer tools debug, tweak and optimize a Web site for peak performance and compatibility. A new Windows-native look in Safari for Windows uses standard Windows font rendering and native title bar, borders and toolbars so Safari fits the look and feel of other Windows XP and Windows Vista applications.
Battling for Browser Share
As Gartenberg sees it, Apple is indicating it is serious about the Web and taking the experience to the next level. Safari 4 includes HTML 5 support for offline technologies so Web-based applications can store information locally without an Internet connection, and is the first browser to support advanced CSS Effects that enable Web graphics using reflections, gradients and precision masks.
"What we have here is a whole new era of browser wars going on with Microsoft, Apple, Mozilla and Google battling it out. The stakes may be different, but they are no less important than they were in the last century," Gartenberg said. "Safari 4 cements the Safari position on Mac OS. Mac OS users have a first-class integrated browsing experience and don't have to look elsewhere. But it also drives the technology further onto the Windows platform."