SAN FRANCISCO - Apple Inc. launched a version of its Safari Web browser for Windows-based PCs on Monday, pitting it against Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer and Mozilla's Firefox.
The free program is the latest move by Apple to expand its reach beyond its Macintosh computer and, at the same time, attract converts to its products. It's previously made its iPod media player and iTunes Store compatible with Windows.
"What we've got here is the most innovative browser in the world and the most powerful browser in the world," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said during his keynote speech at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference.
Safari, which was released a few years ago for Apple's Macintosh computers, has captured about 5 percent of the world's browser market share with more than 18 million users, Jobs said.
Internet Explorer is the predominant browser with a 78 percent share, while Firefox has rapidly climbed to gain about 15 percent of the market, he said. Like the other Web browsers, Safari is available at no charge.
Jobs claimed Safari performs twice as fast as its competitors.
Never one to disappoint his audience, the iconic chief executive - in his final highlight of his 1½ hour speech - also told the thousands of developers before him that the highly anticipated hybrid smart phone and iPod will run Safari.
That means, Jobs said, that any application meant to run on the Safari browser for Macs would also be fully accessible and compatible with the iPhone.
So far, Apple's strategy of offering software and products for computers other than Macs appears to be paying off.
Mac sales have grown significantly over the past two years, pushing its slice of the PC market in the United States from 3.5 percent in 2004 to 4.9 percent in 2006, according to IDC, a market research company.
"Safari is another Trojan horse that introduces an innovation of Apple to the Windows community and entices them to the Mac platform," said Tim Bajarin, an industry analyst at Creative Strategies, a technology consultancy.
Apple's iPhone is expected to further propel the iPod and Mac maker's fortunes. Anticipation for the mobile gadget, due to go on sale on June 29, has driven Apple's stock price to record highs in recent weeks. It soared to an all-time trading high of $127.61 last week after an analyst report predicted 45 million iPhones would be sold in 2009.
But investors seemed less than enthralled with Apple's announcements Monday, sending shares of Apple down by about 3.5 percent, or $4.30, to $120.19, in Monday trading.
Other than promoting how developers could introduce Web-based programs to the iPhone through Safari, Jobs gave little other new information about the iPhone's features.
Instead, Jobs used the event to focus mainly on the next upgrade to the Mac OS X operating system, dubbed Leopard. The product's release was pushed back from the spring to October after Apple said it needed to divert some resources to ready the iPhone instead.
Jobs presented many of the same features in Leopard that he had previewed at last year's Apple developers conference, but did reveal a few new ones.
Those included: a new desktop look - blades of green grass instead of a blue background; an advanced method of finding files on your computer or others machines on your computing network; "Stacks," a new way of organizing and managing the folders on your desktop; and the ability to share videos, photos or other documents in an Apple iChat video-conferencing session.