Should Apple license Safari to other mobile platforms?

Samsung’s announcement today that they are running Apple’s Safari browser on their latest slider phone is, of course, not exactly true. What they’re doing is running a version of Webkit, which is the basis for Safari. It’s not the same thing, and Samsung knows it – but their little “mistake” will get their new phone plenty of free press, so good luck to them.

When I first heard the idea that Apple might have allowed Safari on another phone, I thought it was absurd – because Apple just doesn’t do that sort of thing. Sure, they have a version of Safari for Windows, but that was clearly built so that Windows developers could build web apps for the iPhone (at first, anyway).

The more I think about it, though, the more that I think Apple SHOULD license out Safari on as many mobile devices as possible.

Why? Because it would make the mobile web a better place.

Right now the their are very few phones that are running a decent version of the web. I tried a friend’s Blackberry for the firs time in my life a few days ago, and was shocked to see how terrible the web was on that phone (although it did have many cool features that I WISH were on my iPhone).

Safari on the iPhone really takes the web to a completely different level on the web, and if Apple were to freely allow other phones to have access to a browser of that quality they would not only help bring the mobile web to the next level, but it would also increase the Safari brand, which could extend to the Windows version of the application, and even back to Macs.

It’s unlikely that Apple will decide to go this route, but I really think its a move that would benefit not only Apple, but the mobile web in general – what do you think?

Comments

  1. I don’t think it should… Although onn the one hand, it really would make mobile browsing better for those not using the iPhone, on the other hand, Apple’s trying hard to push Microsoft out of the mobile market, or so I think, and I’m guessing they may have suggested Android to Google to ensure that they do… Maybe. But making Microsoft’s phones better when they are clearly in the lead? (They make Windows stuff only because it has a lot of users and because it is, for the most part, on par with Mac OS X. The iPhone, on the other hand, has had huge success, and is WAY better, arguably, than Windows Mobile.) I don’t think so…

    P.S. – what do the asterisks next to the fields mean? I’m used to having them next to required fields, but I doubt that the URL is required…

  2. John Lockwood says:

    Webkit as you clarify is being used by Samsung and has also been used for some time by Nokia. Webkit is Open Source and there is nothing stopping other mobile phone makes from using it as well, even RIM could if they chose use it on the Blackberry.

    Of course there is somewhat more to Safari than just Webkit, for example even though the Nokia N95 uses Webkit its web-browsing experience is still dire compared to Safari on an iPhone. This is born out by the various reports showing Google searching and Internet browsing usage by iPhone users is higher than ALL other mobile phones added together! See http://www.cellular-news.com/story/29960.php?source=newsletter

    Personally I see no advantage to Apple in allowing Nokia, Samsung, et al, the full Safari program.

  3. Michael says:

    @John Lockwood

    The advantage is in branding. Apple can become the dominant name in mobile browsing very easily.

  4. i’m not sure licensing safari to other mobile devices would be such a good thing for apple. it might possibly cut into their iphone sales – if i were able to get safari running on my current winmo device, i wouldn’t be looking forward that much to picking up the new iphone when i’m in the states later this year. i think the browsing experience on the iphone is one of the major selling points, so it’d be kind of silly to give that away.

  5. Michael says:

    @Phil

    The multi-touch experience on the iPhone and the plethora of applications you won’t be able to get anywhere else are going to be the major selling points of the iPhone from June forward.

    If Apple doesn’t license Safari to other platforms, eventually those other platforms will have mobile versions of Firefox, Opera, or Webkit that have the same functionality as Safari.

    If Apple made Safari THE mobile browser, the way Microsoft made IE THE desktop browser, then it would have major positive implications for the company.

  6. Will licensing Safari help Apple sell iPhone’s or other Apple hardware (considering that’s where Apple cash cow is at)? If not, then it’s a poor business decision.

  7. Michael says:

    @Robert

    Yes, I believe it will. Having an Apple branded browser on a phone showing off how much better Apple software works than other software is always good advertising, and can have a halo effect on sales of other products.

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