Apple CEO Steve Jobs loves to take potshots at Microsoft. So it was merely par for the course when Jobs' keynote speech at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco kicked off with an appearance from the two actors from Apple's Mac v. PC advertising campaign.

The 'PC guy' - actor John Hodgman - was pretending to be Jobs. He mockingly talked about shutting down Apple after the runaway success of Vista - "which has sold tens of dozens of copies!"

This is standard fare for Apple's annual get-together with its developers. However no-one was expecting the real swipe at Microsoft that was about to follow.

As expected, the bulk of Job's speech concentrated on Leopard - the next major upgrade for Apple's Mac OS X operating system, and its response to Microsoft's Windows Vista. But it was relatively underwhelming.

He began by demonstrating the redesigned Finder - the main desktop interface that you use to control the Mac. It includes a more 3D, transparent Dock and a Quick Look feature. This allows you to preview text, graphics and other types of document without having to open them in an application first.

Mocking Microsoft over the pricing structure for the various versions of Vista, Jobs said: "We've got a basic version, which is going to cost $129. We've got a Premium version, which is gonna cost $129. We've got a business version, $129.... And we've got the ultimate version - it's $129."

Boot camp

Jokes aside, Jobs also mentioned a couple of moves that are clearly designed to lure PC users into the Apple camp. The first is the inclusion within Leopard of Boot Camp. This is the software Apple developed that allows Intel-based Macs to boot into Windows as well as the Mac OS.

He also confirmed that Apple is working closely with Parallels and VMware . These are two companies that are developing 'virtualisation' software that allows Macs to run both OS X and Windows side by side. Apple hopes that many PC users will now be tempted to try out a Mac for the first time, safe in the knowledge that they can still run all their old Windows software if they need to.

However, the most audacious move was Jobs announcement that Apple will be releasing a Windows version of the Safari web browser that Apple includes on all Macs. Jobs said that Safari currently has about a 5 per cent share of the browser market. But Apple wants to increase that figure - "and in order to do that we have to create a version of Safari for Windows".

Jobs also claimed that Safari running on Windows was almost 50 per cent faster than Microsoft's own Internet Explorer for certain types of tasks. What Jobs didn't explain was how releasing Safari for Windows would help Apple. Perhaps seeing the Apple logo on a few million Windows PCs is simply Jobs' latest wheeze for needling Microsoft.

Cliff Joseph