Browser maker Opera Software has released in Europe a specialized browser for the two-screen Nintendo DS handheld, touting features that let users comfortably browse the Web from either the DS or slimmer Nintendo DS Lite.
Opera, which has decidedly set its sights on the mobile handset market with its Opera Mobile and Opera Mini handheld browsers, said its DS Browser offers two ways of viewing Web pages on Nintendo’s portable gaming console.
For faster browsing, Opera recommends its “fit-to-width” mode, which is similar to Opera’s display for mobile phone browsing. Fit-to-width features content in a single column stretching between the two DS screens. Users can increase browsing speed if they disable images in this mode, Opera said.
The other mode is “DS” mode, in which an overview of a Web page is displayed on the DS’s lower screen, along with a colored thumbnail that can be moved around on the overview to select an area for magnification on the the upper screen.
“Opera’s browser for Nintendo DS is about convenience,” said Opera Software Executive Vice President Scott Hedrick. “By putting the Web on this small, portable gaming device, we are giving users the convenience of the Web wherever they go.”
Opera’s customized DS Web experience, available in Europe in the form of a regular DS game cartridge for about US$50, will use WiFi networks in the home and public sector to connect to the Internet.
Challenges at Hand
There remains some skepticism about the practicality of mobile Web browsing. Internet use on handhelds must be tightly connected to device or user experience, and must also account for offline time, according to DataComm Research President Ira Brodsky.
“What is really needed is the right kind of total data, mobile experience,” he told TechNewsWorld.
The two biggest challenges of mobile browsing are finding effective ways to browse sites and data that were never intended or formatted for smaller screens, and overcoming losses of connectivity, which can sometimes cripple a mobile browsing experience, Brodsky said.
Nintendo’s popular DS is not the only handheld on the market with two screens, he noted. Many mobile phones now have two screens, or at least outer displays with clocks and alerts. These devices also take advantage of software and services such as AvantGo, which provides handheld-tailored news, entertainment and other information for mobile devices, Brodsky added.
“I think this is definitely the way to go — creating mobile information or content services, as opposed to general browsing,” he said.
The Opera DS browser might be more appealing if it were more closely tied to the device, or came preloaded with URLs for gaming and other Internet sites that might be of interest to DS users, Brodsky suggested.
Opera has done a good job of transferring the Internet experience to mobile devices, but there is limited potential for Web browsing on a mobile gaming console, Parks Associates Director of Broadband and Gaming Michael Cai told TechNewsWorld.
“I’m still not convinced people will replicate the browsing experience from the PC on a mobile device of any kind,” he said.
The price of the Opera browser may further limit its appeal, he added.