Safari on Windows is a great move, and apparently underrated.

With today’s announcement of Safari running on Windows XP and Vista, a collective yawn went up over the Mac community. Analysts, too, were not impressed. Nor were investors.

I don’t understand why the only thing people seem to recognize as “big” are new hardware announcements. The fact is Safari on Windows is a very big deal.

Apple knows their desktop software applications (iTunes, iLife, Final Cut Pro, iWork, etc.) are a big differentiator of the Mac platform. Their simplicity, ease of use, and power is a key ingredient to the Mac’s press and prestige. Apple intends to keep it that way, but there is another class of application, one not bound to a particular operating system and platform. These are the Web 2.0 class of apps. Google apps is a leading example of these kind of applications.

While Apple wrote (or acquired and tuned) its desktop applications, it likely doesn’t want to be in the Web 2.0 development business. So how do they stay involved, and not get drowned out by such apps only performing as intended on another browser like Internet Explorer? Easy, seed your own browser everywhere. With Safari on the Mac, the iPhone, and now Windows, developers on any platform will have a compelling reason to ensure their 2.0 offerings work in Safari. Further, the iPhone itself will provide a good incentive to start developing such apps.

The announcement of third-party iPhone development via Safari/AJAX, combined with Safari’s release for Windows, is a solid 1-2 punch for Apple to be a participant in the “next generation” of apps. It may have been a subtle announcement, but the ramifications are huge, and it’s a shrewd move on Apple’s part. This one should be recognized as a far bigger move than it’s getting credit for.