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Apple encroached further on to Microsoft territory by announcing that it would make its Safari web browser available to users of the software giant’s Windows operating system.

The announcement on Monday came as Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder and chief executive, showed Apple’s latest operating system at the group’s annual software developer conference in San Francisco. The system, known as Leopard, is to ship in October.

Apple’s move into turf traditionally dominated by Microsoft echoes moves by Google, which has launched web-based tools designed to compete with Microsoft’s Office software suite.

By extending Safari to Windows machines, Apple hopes to generate more interest in its web browser, which ranks third behind Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Firefox, an open source rival, in market share.

“By seeding Safari in Windows, it makes sure that as a platform, people will embrace it and develop for it,” said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Jupiter Research.

Attracting developers will ensure that Safari continues to work with new websites as they evolve to contain more complicated features.

“It’s not just about eyeballs or the web browser replacing the PC. It’s about making sure your browser has a good user experience,” Mr Gartenberg said.

Safari accounts for about 5 per cent of web browsers in use, according to Apple, compared with 78 per cent for Internet Explorer and 15 per cent for Firefox.

“Who knows? Maybe we can grow Safari share in the future,” said Mr Jobs on Monday. “We’re going to try.”

Separately, Mr Jobs said Apple would open the iPhone to outside software developers – a move that will expand the number of features available on Apple’s new mobile handset when it launches on June 29.

Apple stopped short of offering outside groups full access to the iPhone’s inner workings, however. Instead, it said developers would be limited to creating web-based applications accessible through a Safari browser included on the iPhone.

Mr Jobs said the arrangement would allow Apple to open up the iPhone to outside software without compromising on security or reliability.

“There are whole companies building applications this way, like Salesforce.com and Google,” Mr Jobs said. “This is a very modern way to build applications and we think it’s going to be awesome on the iPhone.”

Apple shares fell 3.5 per cent to $120.19.

“Everything they ann-ounced was in line with expectations, which is disappointing,” said Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray. “[Apple] always hit a home run, and this time they hit a double.”

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