Norwegian browser maker Opera Software announced this week that there are now over 100 million people around the world surfing the Web on Opera. Exactly half of those users are on the desktop, including Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms, which represents a 30 percent year-on-year growth rate. The other half cruises the Web with Opera Mini on a variety of handsets, Opera Software said.
"Our focus on speed, security, innovation, and usability continues to yield results. We always listen to the needs and wants of our users, and they reward us by choosing Opera," said Jon von Tetzchner, Co-founder, Opera Software.
Opera is also found on game consoles, Internet-enabled TVs, and some set-top boxes, but the biggest boost going forward might come from the mobile crowd. Opera Software recently released a beta version of its browser to the Android Marketplace, while just this week Apple approved Opera for distribution through its App Store.
Well surprise, surprise - the Opera Mini browser has been approved for iPhone and iPod touch on the App Store, Opera Software announced today.
"We are delighted to offer iPhone and iPod touch users a great browsing experience with the Opera Mini App," said Lars Boilesen, CEO, Opera Software. "This app is another step toward Opera's goal of bringing the Web to more people in more places."
While the approval probably comes as a shock to most, Opera Software expected this to happen all along. The browser maker submitted the app on March 23, and while some thought it was merely a publicity stunt, Opera Software insisted that it went to great lengths to ensure Opera Mini complied with Apple's policies. Job well done.
According to Opera Software, not only is Opera Mini incredibly fast, but it will also help iPhone and iPod touch users save money because of its data compression capabilities. Sounds like a win-win situation all around.
Opera has always had a tough time taking on the big guys in the desktop browser market, but anyone who has given Opera Mini a try on their smart phone platform of choice would probably be pleasantly surprised. Rather than simply spitting out web pages just like everyone else, the "Mini" version of the browser will actually relay messages through the company's compression servers, vastly reducing both load time and data usage on the device. This feature makes it one of the fastest mobile browsers available for any of the open smart phone platforms, which up until now, included just about everything short of the iPhone.
Well according to Opera's Jon von Tetzschner the company is not just working on an iPhone version of its browser, but that it doesn't anticipate Apple having any problem with it either. "Our expectation is that Apple will allow it," von Tetzschner said. "Why will they block ours?" My response to this would be simply, why wouldn't they block it? Apple has a pretty strict policy when it comes to app's that duplicate native phone functionality, but I suppose only time will tell.
Maybe Apple wants to get ahead of the anti-trust wrecking ball then inevitably hunts down anyone who tries to shoehorn web browsers into monopolistic markets, but I wouldn't count on it. Expect to see a release notice, or angry blog posting from Opera within the next few weeks.
Get ready Android fans. The mobile browser space is about to get a lot more interesting with the imminent release of Opera Mobile for Android. Don’t confuse this with Opera Mini, which has been available through the Android Market for some time now. Whereas Opera Mini is a java-based browser that was developed for feature phones, Opera Mobile is a full on browser that can stand its ground against the competition.
The odd part here is that it won’t be coming to the Android Market. Opera is only making the software available to OEMs for now. So the next big Android phone could ship with Opera Mobile installed; it could even replace the stock Android browser. Assuming this version of Opera is like the Windows mobile version, it runs a different rendering engine and supports server-side compression like its Mini sibling.
While it will not be available to current Android users just yet, it’s safe to assume that it will soon be in the wild. If Opera doesn’t make it available, the dedicated Android modding community is likely to get a hold of the APK before long. Since the Android Market is really just a suggestion, apps like this can be obtained from outside sources. Between this and Mobile Firefox, it’s going to be an interesting ride. Sorry iPhone users, you’ll be sitting this one out.
Outside of mobile Safari, and perhaps to a lesser extent Opera Mini, the mobile browser experience can be somewhat unsatisfying. Poor page rendering, or completely unusable interfaces seem to plague the mobile experience. That’s where Mozilla has seen an opportunity to expand its browser platform, and a market that is still relatively untapped. With the launch of Fennec Alpha 2, Mozilla is one step closer to its goal of a mobile Firefox. Alpha 2 seems to address many of the performance issues that hindered the previous version, and these complaints were clearly acknowledged in a blog posting by Mozilla’s Mark Finkle.
“While we focused much of the previous alpha on getting the user experience how we wanted, we’ve spent much of the time since focused on improving performance. We’ve made major strides improving startup performance, panning and zooming performance, and responsiveness while pages are loading.”
My somewhat unscientific testing seems to backup these claims and performance has defiantly improved. Currently support is limited to Nokia's Maemo based N800 and N810, but compatibility with Windows Mobile and Symbian is apparently well underway. These platforms could defiantly use a bit more choice when it comes to browsers, and many are hoping it will finally give the power enjoyed by mobile Safari users to those who prefer non Apple hardware.
The device includes a 312MHz Marvell PXA270 processor, Linux 2.4.19, full QWERTY/AZERTY keyboard, an 8GB SD card slot ,Opera Mini 4.1 internet browser and 2.8 inch screen. The iKIT has inbuilt WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities, and supports HSDPA over USB. It has a standby time of 250 hours and power-up time of up to 3 hours.
The suggested retail price of roughly $170 makes it far more affordable than an Apple iPhone – a fact specifically called to attention by IMOVIO. However, practicality of such a product is just as important as the price, if not more, and will play a vital role in iKIT’s case as well.