Apple Safari 3 internet browser - PC

Apple's surprise announcement that it would be letting Windows users take advantage of its internet browser, free of charge, opens up a number of questions; why is the company doing it? Why should you care? What's in it for them? What's in it for you? The list goes on.

So should you take advantage of the new browser? We get playing to find out.

Safari, Apple's answer to Mozilla's Firefox, Microsoft's Internet Explorer as well as offerings from Netscape and Opera and is the latest browser to hit the PC.

Jostling for room what is already a crowded market dominated by Microsoft's IE, Apple will have a strong task ahead of them if they are to dent Microsoft's or Mozilla's market share. One belief currently doing the rounds is that Apple wants people to get familiar with the interface so when it comes to the iPhone people are already used to it.

Personally I don't buy that, mobile phone interfaces are all very different and users switch and change depending on their needs from the handset at the time, rather than because its got an interface they are used to. Samsung popularity is a good example of this compared to people keen to stay with Sony Ericsson or Nokia due to familiarity.

So what's the new browser like? Neat and well designed the buttons are unobtrusive as clear to read. Tabbed browsing is of course the must have and it certainly makes browsing so much easier than multiple windows. That's not to say its anything new, Safari 2.0 had it as does IE7 and Firefox.

Something that is new is the new find feature that allows you to search the webpage you are on. However unlike other web browsers, Safari greys out the page and clearly highlights the word you are looking for making it easy to see no matter how crowded the page is.

Other new features of note are the emphasis on speed, its RSS reader and the ability to resize text fields in any page.

Safari 3 is surprisingly incredibly fast and certainly faster than IE 7 just from us using it all day to view a range of websites and their load speeds. However Apple's claims of speed claims have already been adjusted since the announcement yesterday at the WWDC keynote by CEO Steve Jobs. Compared to the latest versions of the competition Safari 3 is just slightly faster than Firefox and only twice as fast IE7.

That RSS feed is the same one found in version 2 while the resizable text field is good, but certainly not going to persuade you in the same way that perhaps tab viewing would.

All sounds great so what's the catch? Well Safari 3 is still currently in Beta and therefore prone to crashes, glitches and other misdemeanours. Installed on our Mac in the office - yes its available for both Mac and PC users - we immediately started having issues with Microsoft's Instant Messenger.

We aren't sure whether the two are connected however it seems too much of a coincidence to be anything else. On the PC and we were without random crashes on Vista either suggesting if you are going to take the plunge and download the new application be wary that like a bottle of medicine it could have nasty side effects.

Verdict

So should you ditch Internet Explorer or Firefox for the new browser from Apple? It's early days and the bugs and glitches certainly don't help - it's already been reported that users have found a plethora of security holes in the application on the Windows version.

As for its feature set compared to Firefox it's very much of a muchness, however many of the online banking service in the UK don't support Safari yet and are unlikely to do so soon.

Worth a try, but we are glad it comes with an uninstaller.