Opera Mini beta advances mobile Web browsing; Verizon Wireless blocks it at the door

Summary:Opera's beta of its latest Mini browser is a vast improvement on mobile browsing. For starters, it renders a complete Web page as its meant to be viewed and fits it to your screen.

Opera's beta of its latest Mini browser is a vast improvement on mobile browsing. For starters, it renders a complete Web page as its meant to be viewed and fits it to your screen.

Opera's latest mobile browser, which hits public beta June 19, could even get me to browse more on my dreaded Motorola Q. I wouldn't need WAP addresses, URLs with "m" in them and navigation where you feel like an ant on an elephant. The latest Opera Mini replicates the browsing experience as you see it on a PC in many respects and advances the ball for sure. The browser also uses compression technology on the backend so all phones can browse the Web--even the kind that aren't considered smart.

Unfortunately, Verizon Wireless won't let me download the Opera browser even though it's light years ahead of the mobile version of IE. Turns out U.S. carriers get into this walled garden thing where some third party apps are shut out. On Verizon, the Opera Mini is one of the applications blocked at the door. I just hate it when you get access to a private beta and your carrier shoots it down.

I'm currently using the latest Opera Mini on a loaned Cingular handset.

A Verizon Wireless tech support representative said the carrier doesn't support third party applications. If it isn't on your Q already Verizon doesn't want to hear about it. She suggested I call Motorola. But it's fairly obvious that this is a Verizon Wireless issue. The Opera Mini site notes that its browser isn't available on Verizon Wireless.

Tatsuki Tomita, Opera's vice president of business development in Asia Pacific who is relocating to Silicon Valley, says Opera runs into this a lot in the U.S. "In Europe and other places the operators are all on the same playing field," says Tomita. "In the U.S. every carrier has its own standards."

But Opera has wound up on other carriers. AT&T's Cingular and T-Mobile are notable. Verizon Wireless is the hold out.

Why? It's a race for dollars. Verizon wants to control the experience and profit from it. The rub: It would get more usage with a better browser. Of course, Verizon may be trying to limit data usage. All I know is not being able to try out this browser on my own phone is annoying.

After meeting with Opera executives in CNET's New York offices my game plan was to review the browser a bit and see if someone like me--who absolutely hates browsing on a mobile phone--could get into the mini Web. I'm convinced I'd be more sold on mobile browsing with a better browser.

Globally, Opera's baby browser is doing swell. It has 15 million downloads and has converts in Africa, Japan and a bunch of other locales.

Let's hope U.S. carriers--notably Verizon Wireless--get a clue soon.

Topics: Mobility, Enterprise Software


Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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