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photo Safari Wars VI : Return of the GUI
Episode V left off with the Finder growing stagnant and Microsoft's empire dominating world's browser. What's next? Answers await!
(If you're not a good reader, you can jump to the pictures on page 3.)
Fortunately, just as Apple failed to keep a stranglehold on isolated, proprietary, high quality but over-engineered graphics computers, Microsoft, after a long period of unchallenged incompetence in the industry, is losing its wholesale control of software to the point where new options and fresh competition are appearing.

After Netscape was given up for dead, the open source Mozilla project reinvented a competitive codebase in browser technology that not only fuels commercial projects like Netscape across platforms, but also brings a serious mainstream browser to Linux. With major players like IBM embracing Linux as the server platform of choice, Microsoft now faces real competition in that space. A flurry of other web browsers, from niche alternatives on the desktop to embedded and mobile-tuned browsers have also sprung up.

The best news for Mac users came from Apple itself. It was expected that Apple would release its own browser based on Mozilla. Instead, Apple teamed up with the development effort behind the khtml browser rendering engine, and built a fast, standards compliant browser that paired existing, well designed open source technology with Apple's ease of use and consistently brilliant efforts in human interface design.

The Fizz in the Finder
When Apple moved their Mac Faithful from the stagnant classic Mac OS to a new generation of software based on NeXTSTEP, some industry observers had a hard time understanding why Apple didn't jettison the old Finder and build a new replacement in Cocoa.

At first it appeared as if Apple simply needed to prove that Carbon, the technologies allowing classic Mac OS applications to run natively on OS X, was feasible and worked. Large developers with existing projects rooted in the classic Mac OS needed convincing that Mac OS X development was worth their efforts. Apple was straining to demonstrate that the transition work, playfully referred to as 'Carbonization,' would be relatively easy.

With the release of Panther, Apple further dusted off and spruced up the old Finder. They improved its logical integration with applications' open and save dialogs by mirroring them with Finder windows, and added features that make navigating the file system faster and smarter. Even with Panther's improvements to both the Finder and Carbon, many OS X users still opt to replace the Finder with a Cocoa alternative, and wish Apple would do the same. The differences in Carbon and Cocoa are progressively becoming irrelevant however.
One Browser or Two?
Several small, anonymous sources have speculated that Apple might merge the new Safari browser with the Finder. The logic behind that is that many other browsers and operating systems do the same. In addition to Microsoft's IE, the KDE web browser Konqueror (based on the same engine that Safari uses) has copied Microsoft's terrible Explorer interface for browsing local files, as have most all Linux desktop variants.

All the distros of Linux aimed at desktop users (rather than servers) basically just aspire to be Windows rip offs; there is sadly little innovation in human interface among those pushing for 'Linux on the desktop.' But while Linux aims at replacing Windows on PCs, Apple is growing their own ecosystem. That's an important difference.

Apple's innovation isn't trying to be an 'alternative Windows', it's an attempt to continue development of a wholesale Windows replacement, rethought and architected from an entirely original, clean slate. Macs enjoy an enviable freedom from needing to be 'just like Microsoft, only cheaper!' With that in mind, should Apple copy the Explorer file browser and web browser combination? The overwhelming answer from the Mac Faithful is a resounding no.

There is plenty not to like about Microsoft's interface and the integration of their browser into the operating system. While there are a few things I notice in working with Windows that I'd like to see in OS X, there is far more that I don't like at all. Of course Apple shouldn't copy Microsoft's horrible Explorer monster, but guess what folks? Apple is doing pretty well at borrowing good features and ignoring bad ideas. Apple would never come up with anything that works like Explorer.

Part II > Please remain calm!


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