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by: Anja Merret

Do successful companies work with external partners when developing new products and services? It would be interesting to evaluate whether it makes a difference to the success of an enterprise whether a company uses its own internal resources for development or whether it is open to external businesses. Opening to outsiders could involve sharing marketing, business and manufacturing intellectual property. Dangerous?

I thought of this question when I was listening to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates talk about their years in the computer industry. Initially Apple felt it wanted to do everything on its own such as manufacture hardware and develop the software to run on it. Whereas Microsoft always looked to external partners to develop software with. Microsoft is certainly the bigger business and has made more money than Apple, even though they started up within a year of each other.

The discussion, which is keeping cyberspace humming at the moment, is about Safari and why Apple would suddenly produce a Windows version of its browser application. Is Apple now wanting to compete with Microsoft one wonders. As is want, theories are flying about, one better than the next, it seems.

One particular interesting one is the fact, which I hadn't heard of before, that Mozilla earns a fair amount of revenue from the search bar in its browser. I use Firefox on my Mac, as well as Safari, and I had never taken much notice of the branded little G in the search box. I always search off Google's site rather than direct out of the browser bar.

The reason why I use Firefox is because some websites just don't work in Safari. I had one this morning freeze on me. Pruhealth (boo to you) wouldn't allow me to fill in the form for a quote. So I had to go through the whole process again on Firefox. Of course, if Safari is available for Windows, it could mean that web developers would actually test their site on Safari as well. And then Pruhealth's site would actually possibly work on a Mac. One can hope. I must say, Mac users have suffered this kind of abuse for years, so most of us don't even get annoyed anymore.

What could be a further reason would be to allow the computer geeks out there to play with Safari, just for fun. However, just look at photographs of 'computer geek' get togethers and you would be absolutely amazed at the number of Macs in the audience. Have a look at pictures taken at the Hack Day held by Yahoo BBC in London this last week-end, by checking out flickr and searching for Hack Day 2007 pics. Count the Macs. Actually count the non-Macs, that would be easier.

So it's not that the computer geeks would need to play on Safari. They are already doing that. What would be a more realistic reason for this unusual action by Apple is the fact that the iPhone runs on Safari. What Apple might be looking for is a greater developer pool to work on cool new apps for their mobile phone. And it does certainly look like there is a fair interest in Safari. Apple reported that one million copies of the Windows beta version of Safari had been downloaded within the first 48hrs of it becoming available.

Whatever the reason for Apple's move, which will eventually be revealed to us all, one thing is for certain. It will grow the business if the theory of using external developers to develop ones own business is a valid one. As an aside, during recent years, Apple has been using and hugely encouraging external developers already. But making a Mac application available to Windows users is a further gigantic step in this direction. To read more about the business principle as mentioned here read Tom Peters book Re-Imagine.


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