What will the iPhone mean to Web Developers?

Safari browser for iPhoneSince falling completely in love with the iPhone last night after watching the keynote Quicktime, contemplating it has taken up about 50% of my downtime thinking power. There are so many great features that appeal to me as a person, but specifically as a Web designer I can’t help but think of one thing: If the iPhone has even a fraction of the success of the iPod and you couple that with the fact that it comes with the Safari browser by default, well then that browser stands to become a major player in the current IE vs. Firefox fiasco.

While it’s impossible to get a real number on what the market share is for any browser, according to the Google Analytics stats that I have for my various clients, I can determine the following:

Internet Explorer: 51%
Firefox: 38%
Safari: 6%
Other Browsers: 5%

Now you can easily argue those numbers against a thousand other people doing the same, but these merely represent three websites that I manage – the first being my own which would represent a wide array of people looking for a Web Designer – no particular demographic other than perhaps business owners (but that description in itself ranges from 20-something hipsters on bikes to 60 year old lawyers). The second site has a user-base averaging somewhere around 25 and are typically tech-savvy and very liberal. The third site is viewed primarily by 40 year olds on the much more conservative end. So I think I have a good balance but again, it’s a small sampling.

Now consider that Internet Explorer comes with Windows. Safari comes with Macs. Mac obviously has a much smaller market share than Windows in the first place, however iPod is by far the leading mp3 device. If iPhone catches on like iPod and makes it easy to view the Internet on a mobile device (which, when you add the adjective “easy”, was truly never possible before, as Jobs claims) then you could start to see the built in browser for that device taking a much larger market share. Right now alot of Mac users download Firefox – it’s the nature of the demographic. Firefox appeals to the same tech savvy folks who want to push innovation or at least feel like they are that drives people to get a Mac in the first place, and Safari has enough quirks to make it just annoying enough to leave behind. Compare that to Windows/Internet Explorer combo, where so many people running that setup are low-tech people who just don’t realize or care if there is an option, or businesses where installing an alternate browser just isn’t an option.

In summation, I’d like to make a prediction. And going by my moral code which states “If you make a prediction and it’s wrong, you should be beaten severely by monkeys with sharp sticks or at least have to give up smoking for a week” I will state that the Safari browser will have at least 10% of the browser market share by the end of 2008, in line with Apple’s projection that they will have 1% market share of the mobile phone industry by that time as well. I would probably even go higher, but I’m almost certain that nearly as soon as the iPhone hits shelves, someone will come out with a hack to allow you to run Firefox on it (which I will probably jump on.)

Up Next: iPhone is a-Happenin'