Opera to Provide Browser for Samsung Handsets

Opera Software on Thursday announced a deal with Samsung Electronics to deliver Opera Mobile on Samsung mobile handsets — two days after it launched a browser for Nintendo’s Wii gaming console.

Opera Mobile is Opera Software’s standards-compliant Web browser for advanced mobile phones. The browser uses Opera’s small screen rendering technology to reformat Web pages and allows users to navigate with intuitive vertical scrolling.

In addition to the obvious plus of aligning Opera with a major brand name electronics maker, the Samsung deal is strategic for the company on another front, noted Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with JupiterResearch.

“Part of Opera’s strategy is to get its technology directly onto the handset so consumers don’t have to jump through hoops to get it,” Gartenberg told TechNewsWorld. “Now mobile phone users don’t have to go to a Web page, download the application, install it, etcetera. This is a very good deal for Opera.”

On a Mobile Roll

Opera is on a mobile roll, so to speak. In mid-December the open source browser maker announced its Opera Mini Web browser would be shipping in most markets with selected Nokia 6300s.

Opera Mini is a Java-based Web browser that offers users full Internet access on the majority of mobile phones in the market. By using a server to preprocess and compress Web sites before sending them to the handset, Opera Mini reduces the size of data transferred to speed up the browser’s response.

Opera has gained a reputation for browser innovation, particularly with Opera Mini 3.0. The new version launched in November with enhanced mobile social networking abilities for photo sharing, RSS (really simple syndication) feed readers, and secure connections for online banking and shopping.

Not About PCs

Opera’s browser technologies also target PDAs (personal digital assistants), home media such as TV and set-top boxes, automotive and transportation entertainment and infotainment technologies, and, of course, video game consoles. Opera is the browser of choice on Nintendo’s DS and Wii.

“The Opera folks are showing that there are ways to compete in the browsing business that have nothing to do with the PC desktop,” Gartenberg noted.

The Mobile Opportunity

Opera’s largest opportunity may be with mobile devices. The mobile Web is getting more traffic. Fifteen percent of mobile services subscribers accessed the Internet from their mobile devices in 2005, according to Forrester Research. That compared to only 6 percent in 2004. Analysts expect 2006 numbers to be strong.

While Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox outpace Opera on personal computers, Opera is burning up the mobile handset market. Opera may have to wait for its ultimate payoff, but getting a head start in this growing market is likely to position the developer well for the future.

“Mobile browsing is still not a super-mainstream consumer activity, but it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg syndrome,” Gartenberg remarked. “You need to have a good browsing experience on the phone for people to begin to start using it. Fortunately, that’s what we are starting to see happen now. We are definitely beginning to get closer to the time when mobile browsing moves to a mainstream activity.”

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