So I've been wondering…

…What is Apple’s strategy with Safari, exactly?

Really… I mean with Firefox, Opera, IE, and others, what’s the reason that Apple is aggressively entering the Browser wars? Marc Andreesen can tell you that IE is a monster to compete with, and Firefox is whomping butt in the space.

The other day, it struck me: Apple’s pattern has thus far been to take open-ish standards, re-brand them and then build services around them. The examples are many: iTunes/iPod (mp3), iMovie/Quicktime (MOV/MPEG-4), iDVD (DVD), Airport(802.11x) – the list goes on.

Why a browser? Because a browser is, and this is important, just another kind of media player. If Apple wants to create an end-to-end new media publishing platform (and they seem to want to), they don’t want to depend upon other platforms to support the technologies and engineering they want to apply in displaying their services.

OK, so Web2.0 is the ‘platformization’ of the Web. Services are delivered as web applications that deliver value through the ‘cloud’ in other channels. Those other channels include IPTV (AppleTV, XBOX, Wii) Mobile (iPhone, Blackberry, etc.), desktop apps (Adobe AIR, iPhoto), and so on. Consider YouTube: I can upload a video to YouTube, and it will almost instantly appear (formatted correctly) for each of these mediums!

Safari is Apple’s play at creating a walled garden for their own (and their partners’) web applications.

Then I saw this; an Apple patent for improving the online shopping experience by delivering more in-store-like eCommerce applications.

This would allow you to see what products people are looking at, and by clicking on one of the other visitor icons, customers could even ask questions to users about why they’d left one product or gone to another product. This visual representation can be used to help with live real-time changes in interest:

It looks like (and it really looks like) Apple is going to use Safari as a primary point of introduction to deliver Web2.0 services to their other devices. .Mac is already doing it! You can edit and organize photos in iPhoto that are then uploaded to .Mac (in addition to Facebook, Flickr, and others); you can edit and polish a video in iMovie and upload it to .Mac; you can create a Website and blog in iWeb to upload to .Mac; you can even create a compelling and moderately interactive video in Keynote and export it to Flash for inclusion in a .Mac Website!

All of this points to a circling of the Wagons around the big Long Tail brass ring: Democratized tools for producing and distributing user-generated media in the same platform and locus of the hit-driven stuff. The question remains to be seen: Will this play, and will users see the value. Moreover, will this lead to greater Mac, iPod, and iPhone sales, or will people demand that Apple ‘open up?’

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