Wii Takes Gamers to Opera

In response to customer feedback from the original beta version, Nintendo and Opera Software on Thursday beefed up the Internet Channel on Nintendo’s Wii game console with a faster and more functional version of the Opera Web browser.

Designed for browsing the Web via the Wii remote and the user’s television, the Opera-powered Internet channel now lets users point with multiple remotes at the same time, though only one of the remotes is designated to control the browser.

The most compelling new features in the latest version of Opera on Wii include two types of zoom functions, four-direction scrolling and the ability to quickly select Google or Yahoo for searching.

“The Opera-powered Internet Channel for Wii is about making the Web easy to use for anyone, at any age,” says Scott Hedrick, executive vice president of Devices for Opera Software. “We received a lot of user feedback after the Christmas release of the original version, and based on that feedback we have created a browser that is clean, intuitive and made for viewing on the TV.”

Resolving the Resolution

One problem with using a Web browser via a television is managing the resolution — previous solutions have often given consumers spotty results due to the wide range of screen resolution variables among TV sets.

“One thing that Opera has done to cater to viewing Web content on a TV is the use of our rendering technology, called Extensible Rendering Architecture (ERA), which basically adapts the content to any screen size — in this case to a TV,” Michelle Valdivia Lien, Opera Software marketing communications manager for the Americas, told TechNewsWorld.

Other forms of the ERA architecture, Lien noted, are used for small-screen rendering for devices like smartphones.

Opera also created features original to its Wii development efforts, among which is the new zoom function.

“With our intelligent zoom, you point the control to the part of the page that you want a closer look at, press the plus button, and it automatically zooms into that frame and understands the column you want to look at,” Lien explained. Opera will also deliver its intelligent zoom feature to its other browser versions.

TV Challenges

With the high likelihood that most Wii owners will already have a PC connected to the Web, how much Web browsing is a family likely to engage in from the living room? It’s tough to beat a PC for searching, research, e-mail and shopping, and while the Wii remote is handy, it’s ease of use is nowhere near that of a keyboard and mouse.

“Web browsing on the TV is a dead-end for everyone who tries it, most notably WebTV, which was acquired by Microsoft years ago when this notion was first introduced,” James McQuivey, an analyst and vice president of research for Forrester, told TechNewsWorld.

“However, putting video and other media on the TV over an Internet connection is something that has potential,” he noted. “It’s just that it’s not really Web browsing anymore in the traditional sense, it’s Web-based TV and personal media consumption, and that’s the most interesting part of what Nintendo’s Wii is doing.”

McQuivey added that, with the help of specific media tools like Orb Networks’ MyCast tool, a Wii user can put family photos, MP3 files, and other videos they have on their computers onto their TVs using the Web browser as the bridge.

“So while people aren’t longing to do text searches on Google using the TV, they would be likely to use the Wii’s point and click technology to select videos from an online video site or choose an audio playlist from the PC in the other room,” he stated.

This version of the browser is a free download until June 30, 2007. Once downloaded, is free for the lifetime of the system.

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