Apple is implementing system-level features within its Safari browser, and has responded to complaints from some Mac users.

The company released Safari 1.2 this week, saddening many Mac users because the company did not release a version of Safari for Mac OS X 10.2 or earlier operating systems. Many complained of feeling forced to upgrade to Mac OS X 10.3 by Apple's decision.

Apple, which distributed Safari 1.1.1 in the box with its Panther operating system, rejects the complaints – as the new version of its standards-based Mac browser leans heavily on the new operating system and some of its over 100 new features, it said.

Apple says: "Safari 1.2 has been designed to leverage advances in Panther not present in the Jaguar release of Mac OS X. These Panther technologies are needed to deliver Safari v1.2's most significant improvements. For example, personal certificate support is made possible by Panther-specific security technologies that are simply not available on Jaguar."

The company explains that is does in fact continue to offer support for the Jaguar-friendly Safari 1.0: "Safari v1.0 continues to be available for customers running on Jaguar-based systems and has recently been updated with the latest security improvements," it points out.

But the company's focus on innovation remains central to Apple's future plans: "Panther has been extremely well received by Mac users around the world and its success allows us to innovate aggressively with system applications like Safari by relying on state-of-the-art OS technology," the company said.

Microsoft has already announced its plans to end support for Internet Explorer, moving to weave a Web browser into future generations of its operating system.

Apple's Safari development team held good their promise to offer Apple-developed browser technologies back into the open source Konqueror community. Safari uses the basic engine of Konqueror.

The Konqueror team – which released a new version of its browser this week – cite "huge performance boosts" to the browsers Web rendering and increased compliance with Web standards through collaboration with Apple's Safari team.

In related news, the Omni Group this week released a beta of its Cocoa-based OmniWeb 5.0 browser (usual cost $29.95, free to trial).