Apple surprised everyone recently by announcing Safari 4.0. It’s released as a beta, put don’t let that put you off, it’s every bit as stable as the previous version.Opinion is divided on some of the new features, with some people hating the fact that the tabs have moved to the top (as Chrome), the ‘Top Sites’ feature not being particularly useful, and the intrusion of ‘Cover Flow’ into bookmark & history browsing.Other people love these features, but I think it’s a mixed bag. The feature that wowed me first was the ‘Top Sites’ feature, however this enthusiasm has faded as I realised I cannot seem to find it useful. Time will tell.The feature that I hated at first was the ‘Cover Flow’ intrusion. I don’t like Cover Flow, I don’t use it in the OS, or iTunes, however it seemed to make more sense in Safari, because it’s better than what it replaces, and I’m warming to it.The traditional way, by earching your history by looking at hundreds of similar named bits of text, is not user-friendly at all, however quickly skimming through thumbnails of those pages is much more intuitive.Thurrott is having a bad time in finding anything to like in Safari 4 beta. This isn’t surprising, but he seems to blow lukewarm to cold on Apple, depending on whether he needs to up his site visits. I’m purposefully not linking to his article.Everyone seems not to mention the speed. The stats seem incredible, and although they seem to be true and not exaggerated, (they have been independently tested and confirmed), the average surfer won’t see much difference.The question for me remains, is why are Apple introducing more (albeit useful) eye-candy into Safari? It’s a browser, and shouldn’t it be lean, fast & mean?It comes down to pushing the hardware. I do most of my personal surfing on a little iBook G4 and it’s beginning to show the strain. Apple need to keep selling their hardware, so they keep pushing the specs, to make you upgrade.I’ve held off, because, like most I can’t afford to upgrade my hardware every time Apple releases new Mac’s.I put it off for as long as possible, and I’m planning to purchase a MacBook when Snow Leopard is released.It seems that Apple are heading towards Snow Leopard as the pinnacle of what they can achieve, after they threw away OS9 all those years ago.Snow Leopard seems to be everything that Steve Jobs has been aiming for – a lean, mean OS, with no legacy code. A good foundation to build upon.I predict that after Snow Leopard has been released, together with the hardware that’s designed to take full advantage of it, Steve Jobs will announce his retirement, with the knowledge that his job is done.However it will be sad when SJ retires. To most new Mac users he has significant, but not irreplaceable influence.When he does go, I’m sure that Apple will carry on, and be better off in the long run, but the Apple that I have grown up with (since System 6) – my Apple – will never be the same again.Safari is all part of this, and it’s apparent that Apple are slowly putting the pieces together to make the Mac best tech-experience, bar none.