Opera heads for wireless mainstream

The company's wireless browser is set to achieve greater prominence in the huge mobile phone industry with the release of Nokia's latest smartphones

Opera Software has reached a deal with Nokia to begin including the Opera Web browser as a default application on Nokia smartphones.

Opera Software may control only a tiny fraction of the market for desktop Web browsers, but it is making steady headway with its wireless browsers, which use a technology called Small-Screen Rendering (SSR) to reformat ordinary Web pages for small-screen devices. Opera has been distributing browsers for handsets from Nokia, Sony Ericsson and others for several months, but until now it has been up to the user to download the browser from the Web, or install it from a CD.

Nokia licensed the Opera browser for inclusion in its 6600 handset, a follow-up to the earlier 3650 and 7650. Like those handsets, the 6600 is based upon a customisation of the Symbian operating system known as Series 60, and includes advanced features such as email access and video recording and playback.

"This proves that Opera's vision of full HTML browsing is having a breakthrough," said an Opera spokesman. "Users, the industry, everybody wants the the full Web, not WAP."

Opera has released for download a version of the browser similar to that included with the 6600, called Opera 6.1 for Series 60. The new version is significantly smaller than previous editions for Series 60, uses less memory and has improved handling of frames and numeric tables, among other tweaks.

As Nokia licenses Series 60 to other handset makers, the software can be installed on some other Symbian-based smartphones, including the Siemens SX1. Users who download the software must pay 25 euros (£19 for it after a 14-day trial period.

Nokia is also planning to include Opera as the default Web browser on upcoming handsets, such as the 7700 "Media Device", which has a larger 65,536-colour screen and is based on a new Symbian interface called Series 90. Opera is included on a CD-ROM with Sony Ericsson's new P900 handset, and is downloadable for the P800.

Opera said it is in talks with Kyocera and other handset makers about future browser bundling deals, and expects to make further announcements later this year and in the first quarter of 2004. The company's business model is based partly on licensing fees from handset makers and network operators.

PalmSource, Microsoft and others make browsers that compete with Opera in the mobile market.