Apple on Monday put the finishing touches on and released its Safari Web browser as a free download for Windows and Macintosh computers.
Version 4.0, which debuted in beta back in February, adds several of Apple's interface enhancements including Cover Flow and its Full History Search. New to the open source WebKit browser engine is the addition of Web standards like HTML 5 and advanced CSS Effects. Similar to Apple's iPhone Web page views, Safari 4 adds Full Page Zoom for a closer look at any Web site without degrading the quality of the site's layout and text.
"The successful beta release helped us fine-tune Safari 4 into an even better, faster version that customers are going to love," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior VP of worldwide product marketing during the company's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.
The browser is also expected to improve its performance with the release of Mac OS X Snow Leopard, available in September. Apple said the 64-bit capabilities of the upcoming operating system help the Web application render images and run scripts even faster.
Despite the speed claims, the Web browser is one area where Apple has been lagging behind the rest of the field, according to recent independent market research figures. Microsoft's Internet Explorer lead continues to erode, although it still holds onto a 60% market share. Mozilla Firefox has captured 30% of the market and is on the rise, while Apple and Google trail Opera slightly with a 4% share of the browser market.
Schiller said Safari is currently used by 70 million users worldwide.
Safari 4 for Mac OS X requires Mac OS X Leopard v10.5.7 or Mac OS X Tiger v10.4.11 and Security Update 2009-002, and a minimum 256 MB of memory.
InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis on increasing application performance. Download the report here (registration required).
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