SAN FRANCISCO - Apple dropped “computer” from its name, but not from its identity.
In his keynote speech at Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference in San Francisco on Monday, CEO Steve Jobs made clear that despite the company’s increasing focus on consumer electronics devices such as the iPod and the upcoming iPhone, Apple remains committed to competing in the PC market.
In addition to the standard jabs at Microsoft and Windows, the iconic CEO highlighted a number of steps the company is taking to introduce and lure Windows users to Apple’s software.
Perhaps the splashiest of those steps is his decision to release a version of the company’s Safari browser for Windows. According to Jobs, Safari is the third most popular browser used on the Web, with about 5 percent market share, even though it was only available for Macintosh users.
Apple will distribute Safari with the other Windows software the company produces: its iTunes jukebox, which has been downloaded some 500 million times, Jobs said.
“We dream big,” Jobs said. “We’d love for Safari’s market share to grow substantially ... We’re going to go try,” he said.
Analysts credit Apple’s decision to develop iTunes for Windows with boosting the success of its iPod music player, and with helping introduce Windows users to the Mac. The company has said that in recent quarters some 50 percent of new Macintosh purchasers have not owned a Mac before, and the company has steadily gained market share.
But Jobs also announced some steps that could help keep that momentum going. Near the start of his presentation, he announced that the world’s largest independent videogame maker, Electronic Arts, was going to bring more of EA’s top games, including Madden football and Tiger Woods golf, to the Mac.
Apple has long had a big disadvantage to the Windows environment when it comes to games. Game makers tend to develop games for the PC first and then port them over to the Mac months later—if at all, meaning that a greater variety of games and most of the newer games are available on Windows, not the Mac.
Much of Jobs’ presentation focused on Leopard, the company’s forthcoming update to its Mac operating system. One of the key new features of the operating system is a program called “Boot Camp,” which lets Mac users choose which operating system to run when they start up their computer, either the Mac OS or Windows.
Jobs announced that Boot Camp will be built into Leopard—it’s currently available for download as a free test version—and will work hand-in-hand with third party programs that allow users to run Windows applications directly within the Mac OS. Apple will also ship a complete set of Windows drivers with Leopard, so that Windows applications will be able to use the Web cameras and other hardware features built into the company’s computers.
“This is the best way to run Windows on a Macintosh,” Jobs said.
To be sure, the company’s ambition goes well beyond computers these days. And with its much hyped iPhone only days away from launch, Jobs announced that developers could get in on that action also.
The company had initially said that programmers would not be able to write applications for the iPhone due to security and stability concerns. But at the conference, Jobs announced that the company had come up with a way to address those issues.
The company’s solution was to encourage programmers to write so-called Web 2.0 applications using the Ajax programming environment. iPhone users would be able to run those programs through the Safari browser built into the iPhone, company vice president Scott Forrestal noted.
Developers can write those programs immediately without even having the phone in hand and without some kind of special programming kit, he said.
It remains to be seen, however, whether that solution will satisfy developers or users. Potentially, it could limit the sophistication of the programs that outside developers could write for the phone. It also means that developers won’t be able to simply port applications they’ve written for Mac computers over to the iPhone.
Several developers at the conference expressed disappointment about Apple’s approach to development for the iPhone, noting that they’d essentially have to write two separate programs, one for the Macintosh computers and one for the iPhone.
“I’m not too thrilled about that,” said Robert Brennan, a programmer at the University of Alberta, who was in town for the conference.