Just when you thought Apple was becoming the most boring rich tech company in the country—no new Macs, no OS X Snow Leopard, no Steve Jobs—Safari (again) becomes the fastest browser on the planet, Mac or Windows.
How fast is fast? Apple’s PR trumpet says it’s 30 times faster than Internet Explorer on Windows. So is my grandmother. If you don’t mind living a little dangerously, Safari 4 has so much speed you’ll even be reading faster.
2009 hasn’t been a barn burning year for Apple. So far. Macworld, the last Mac expo where Apple does anything more than watch, was, well, how should I put this in polite terms? Almost boring.
I watched Phil Schiller do the Macworld keynote presentation, which wasn’t really all that bad, but I kept wondering what Steve Jobs thinks of his chubby, bubbly, huggable cohort. We got a new iLife, a new iWork. Then what?
The App Store is honking along with more downloads that western Europe has people, though someone figured out that most apps don’t get used much. Hey, how about those 17-inch MacBook Pro models? Has anyone actually seen one?
With Steve Jobs sitting on the sidelines until summer, and nothing new in the Apple product pipeline until summer (after all, Steve won’t share big announcements with underlings, will he?), what can we do but sit on our hands.
About the only excitement in Appleland is Intel and NVIDIA trading lawyer bills. Seems like the big CPU chipmaker doesn’t like the little GPU chipmaker taking away some of the big chipmaker’s business.
Apple, it seems, is caught in the middle, up the upgrade creek without a GPU to paddle, hence no new Macs, no new Mac mini, no new MacPro models—until Steve rises from the ashes of recuperation, bangs some executive heads, and the drum, and the product pipeline gets moving again.
Then, more than out of the blue, but more from under the Rock of Surprise™ comes Safari 4.0. Yes, it’s beta, but what else is Apple doing these days besides watching the stock price yo yo? Beta is news.
Features? We don’t need no stinkin’ new features! We need speed. And, because Apple has a prickly heat fever for Cover Flow, we apparently need Cover Flow’s delicious one-click favorite web page goodness, whether we think we need it or not.
What’s old is new again, and Apple delivers the old with a new look. Just look at the Safari 4 features list.
I was so excited over Safari’s hot to trot feature list that I was ready to buy it when I realized most of the features were already around in the old Safari. You know. Things like style sheets, RSS, standards, Acid 2 compliance, and so on.
Let me go back to the future with Cover Flow. Safari 4 features a similar kind of look to the Cover Flow in iTunes, though with more Frankenview, and called Top Sites. Safari displays varying size web page thumbnails with a single click, giving you another single click way to get to your most popularly viewed web sites.
How that’s quicker than using the menu bar is beyond me. I’m into real candy. Not eye candy.
The biggest change, and the one more Mac Safari beta users are complaining about, is the somewhat unorthodox use of tabs. Gone are the tabs of yesteryear, nicely placed by God himself right below the URL bar and above the web page you’re viewing.
Now, in a fit of innovation, Apple moved the tabs on top of Safari, and at first, at least to me, that was completely disconcerting; somewhat like wearing high heels for the first time. Sure it looks cool, but can it do what Ginger Rogers did? Hint: everything Fred Astaire did but backwards and in high heels. See?
So, I didn’t like the tabs. Until I opened another browser window, which was offset from the one behind, as is the case with a new browser window in Safari and nearly every other browser in the world. Then I noticed that the new browser windows tabs were neatly arranged right below the browser window behind, making all the tabs viewable.
Innovation disguised as usbility.
Normally, tabs would be hidden by the foremost browser page. No longer. Mostly.
Apple claims somewhere on the order of 150 features for Safari 4, though I’d guess that 138 of them are features from Safari 3.2.1 and beyond. There’s support now for HTML 5 and HTML 5 media, along with LiveConnect and XML, for the geekier amongst our kind.
Click on the Bookmarks icon in Safari 4. Whoa! Shades of iTunes. Yeah, it’s eye candy, but it’s familiar eye candy. Cover Flow will show up in Apple Mail next; you know, so you can flip through all those email messages displayed in type so small you can’t read it, but oh, flipping is so much fun, right?
ArsTechnica goes into more detail about Safari’s new Top Sites (Cover Flow?) feature, showing you the Small, Medium, and Large scaling capabilities. In a similar vein, the History gets an iTunes makeover, which is rather attractive since you get to view what you viewed before viewing it again.
I like it. I had to get rid of a few Dashboard Widgets to keep it working. But I like it, beta or not. And there’s a reason it’s called public beta. Apple wants us to find the bugs and report back to them (like that’ll get me a discount on Snow Leopard).
In the meantime, enjoy. It may be the last of chewy goodness from Apple’s product pipeline until Steve completes his recuperation in time for the next version of the iPhone.