Opera unveils new browser for wireless Internet

15 October 2002 Norwegian web browser pioneer Opera Software has unveiled a new browser that, it claims, will make it far easier to read web pages on a mobile device.

Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner says that the software, based on the company’s “small-screen rendering technology”, addresses the problem whereby users cannot view content on a mobile device’s small screen – without scrolling across horizontally. The Oslo-based company’s new browser reformats and stacks web content so that users can view it by simply scrolling down vertically.

The company expects to release the browser in the first quarter of 2003.

Von Tetzchner said that the new browser would provide a major boost for content providers. This is because they will not have to supply several versions of their web sites in different formats, including the discredited wireless application protocol (WAP) standard.

By enabling companies to deliver web content in a single format, von Tetzchner boasted that Opera’s browser would be able to render WAP and iMode equally well. IMode is a rival wireless technology from Japanese mobile telecoms giant NTT DoCoMo. Both iMode and WAP would be rendered redundant by the technology, suggested von Tetzchner.

Most analysts gave Opera’s announcement a cautious welcome, although others cast doubt on the level of demand for wireless web content. Furthermore, demonstrations suggest that the technology still requires some refinement.

For example, Opera CTO Haakon Lie could only show demonstration web pages downloaded onto a mobile phone to the Wall Street Journal. The WSJ added that Lie could not show them live surfing on the Internet and that some web page images, such as wide logos, were virtually unreadable.

Opera also faces tough competition software giant Microsoft, which is bidding for total control of the browser market. At present, Opera’s most significant partnership is with mobile operating system supplier Symbian, which was established by a consortium of mobile phone manufacturers, including Motorola, Nokia, Matsushita and Ericsson.

Lie told the WSJ that Opera is working closely with Nokia to get its browser installed in upcoming mobile phone models.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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