Apple has unleashed its latest Windows product – Safari.

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs announced the new software, Safari 3, during his Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) keynote.

He observed that over 18 million people now use the browser and that it now accounts for 5% of online market share, with Internet Explorer (IE) holding 78% and Firefox 15%.

"We would love for Safari's market share to grow substantially. But how are we going to do that? Safari for Windows," Jobs said.

The company has exploited its Windows development experience acquired with iTunes to launch the new browser, which works on Macs, Windows XP and Windows Vista. Apple's boss claimed the new software to be twice as fast as Internet Explorer on Windows systems.

Safari is the fastest browser running on Windows, based on the industry standard iBench tests, rendering web pages up to twice as fast as IE 7 and up to 1.6 times faster than Firefox 2, according to figures released by the company.

Improvements in Safari, which will be made available as a public beta Monday, include enhanced tabbed browsing, you can move them around or drag them into a separate window.

The beta software is being made available as time-limited software. The final version will ship as part of Leopard in October, when final versions for Mac OS X 10.4 and Windows will also be made available.

Safari 3 also features easy-to-manage bookmarks and a built-in RSS reader to quickly scan the latest news and information.

Jobs confirmed that one million copies of iTunes are downloaded each day, and observed that there have been over half a billion downloads of iTunes for Windows so far.

Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg waxed positive on Apple's move, reflecting: "There's some obvious comparisons to Netscape vs. IE and the browser wars of the last century. While today's browser battles are being played for different stakes, they are no less important. This is a great strategic move by Apple that will push their technology further on to the Windows platform. Expect a response from Redmond."

"We think Windows users are going to be really impressed when they see how fast and intuitive web browsing can be with Safari," said Steve Jobs, Apple's chief executive. "Hundreds of millions of Windows users already use iTunes, and we look forward to turning them on to Safari's superior browsing experience too."

Other Safari features now available to Windows users include SnapBack, one-click access to an initial search query; resizable text fields; and private browsing to ensure that information about an individual's browsing history isn't stored.

Safari 3 supports HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SVG and Java.