Today, Apple unexpected released a beta version of Safari 3.0, the upcoming version of its Web browser, and one of the features that will ship in Leopard, the next version of Mac OS X. Why is this interesting to you, the Windows user? Well, for the first time, Safari is available in both Windows and Mac OS X versions. Apple did this largely because of the iPhone--third party developers can only target iPhone's built-in version of Safari if they want to create iPhone applications as the company doesn't allow them to create native applications--but no matter. I've always thought that Safari was a high-quality browser. And its release to Windows users could change things, somewhat dramatically, in the browser space.

For me personally, the arrival of Safari on Windows is a bit disconcerting. I'd long claimed that I'd move to Safari if Apple would ever just release the thing on Windows, but now that they have, I'm faced with an interesting decision. I do like Safari, still. But as I've recently moved my email and personal information management (PIM) capabilities to the Web, I've come to rely more and more on Firefox 2 as my primary interface with the Web. And while Firefox is (mostly) a first-class citizen with these services, Safari is not. Presumably, Apple's growing relationship with Google will fix these issues. But for now, if you use things like Gmail, Google Calendar, Blogger, Picasa Web Albums, or other similar online services, Safari is pretty weak.

Those issues aside, Apple appears to have moved its OS X-based browser to Windows with minimal effort, and it is mostly stable and usable even in beta form. (That said, I've already had one nasty crash.) Version 3.0 adds a Firefox-like Inline Find box, which is wonderful, tabbed browsing that's on by default (it was off in 2.0 by default), form auto-fill, an improved RSS experience (with neat sliding effect), resizable text fields, and Private Browsing, which helps keep your online activities private. I'll review Safari 3.0 for Windows once the final product ships. For now, here are some shots of the beta version.