by Tom Kaneshige

Speedy Safari 4 Beta Has Long Way to Go

Mar 05, 20092 mins
Computers and PeripheralsConsumer ElectronicsIT Leadership

In the corporate browser race, Safari lags behind Internet Explorer and Firefox in market share and security features.

Apple has been touting the cheetah-like speed of its Safari 4 beta browser released last week, but just how fast will it be in the wild? When it comes to catching the competition, especially in the corporate world, probably not fast enough.

Safari 4 beta, which is available on both OS X and Windows, boasts a supped-up engine dubbed Nitro that renders JavaScript 4.2 times faster than the engine in Safari 3, says Apple. Lab tech rats at our sister publication InfoWorld swooned over the browser—one tester proclaiming, “it skunked Firefox.” Safari 4 beta also is the first browser to support database features of HTML 5.

But don’t expect Web pages in the real world to spring to life on Safari. While Nitro is good for JavaScript-heavy applications, says Forrester’s Mike Gualtieri, the real bottleneck is bandwidth for downloading content and workflow of the application. With the latter, for instance, a fast JavaScript engine is important for rich internet applications such as Ajax, but not so much for Adobe Flex or Microsoft Silverlight.

“A poorly designed Web site will not appear fast no matter how fast a browser can render content or execute JavaScipt,” Gualitieri says. “Enterprises that think they have browser problems would be advised to look at the design of the applications running in the browser. That is probably the real problem.”

So far, Safari in the enterprise is a moot point. Few enterprises use Safari, much less plan to upgrade to Safari 4. A recent Forrester survey of 50,000 enterprise users showed Internet Explorer with a lion’s share 78 percent market share, followed by Firefox with 18 percent. Safari? A measly 1.4 percent.

Part of the problem is that companies just don’t swap browsers very often. Enterprise applications also have custom hooks into existing browsers. On the tech front, Safari lacks many security management capabilities that are absolutely required at companies, according to an InfoWord lab test. For instance, Internet Explorer and Firefox are the only browsers with enterprise-class features like configurable security zones.

Safari also slid last month in overall market share, reports Net Applications, an Internet metrics company. Taking some of the wind out of the sails of Safari 4 beta’s debut, Safari usage slipped by .03 of a percentage point compared to the month prior, ending a three-month growth streak. On the upside, Safari 4 beta showed a fast start and looks promising, says Net Applications.