We all remember the browser wars of the last 1990s: Navigator versus Explorer; Netscape versus Microsoft. Some may also recall the ensuing discussions, debates,legal cases and testimonies on Microsoft's monopoly powers and the intricacies of bundling products in the digital networked world.
Fast Forward June 2007. ON June 11, Steve Jobs introduced Safari 3 Public Beta. What made this announcement important was that it is for Mac + PC. Just like iTunes is for Mac + PC. Just as iPhone is for Mac + PC.
The stock market was disappointed that Apple did not open up the iPhone architecture for third-party applications. In fact, what most analysts failed to see was that Apple has opened up the iPhone architecture through Safari 3 that is compatible with Windows.
The browser wars of the 1990s was about the personal computer. The browser wars now is about the mobile phones. The Safari 3 launch is not about fighting yesterday's battle to control how we access the Internet through personal computers but is about the jockeying underway now to control how we use the mobile phones.
Just as making iTunes Windows-compatible allowed Apple to appeal to a broad base of consumers, this announcement is to selectively appeal to a broad base of Windows users who may be attracted to iPhone. Safari on iPhone automatically syncs bookmarks from PC and Mac and that's where the seamless connection confers advantage to Apple. And at this point in time, the built-in-search engines are Google and Yahoo on the iPhone.
In the coming months, we should look at the strength of third-party developers writing applications on Safari 3. That would be a lead-indicator of how Apple is likely to control the network architecture relative to others (especially, Microsoft, RIM and Symbian). Making Safari Windows-compatible may turn out to be a key decision on how broad and how deep Apple can succeed in the network era.