Opera Mini will replace Nokia's in-house Xpress browser as the default for Microsoft's existing feature and Asha handsets.
When Microsoft announced its massive layoffs in July — and that it would wind down production of Nokia Asha and S40 handsets — a smaller item also on the chopping block was its feature phones' stock browser, Xpress. Microsoft said at the time it was examining "strategic options" for replacing Xpress with something made outside the company.
The new licensing agreement, announced on Thursday, will see Opera mini become Nokia feature phones' browser of choice. It will also more than compensate for Opera's lost role as the default browser on Nokia's abandoned range of Android-based Nokia X phones, as at least before Nokia handed its devices business to Microsoft, it was still shipping a lot more feature phones than smartphones.
According to the agreement, anyone with a feature phone that uses Xpress can expect to be nudged across to the Opera Mini browser from October, while new devices will ship with Opera Mini already installed.
"Users will begin to receive notifications on their phone starting October 2014, providing them with information on how to upgrade from Xpress Browser to Opera Mini. The precise dates when these notifications will arrive will vary by product family," an Opera spokeswoman said in a statement.
"Opera Software intends to fully support people during the full transition period from October 2014 to December 2015.
"The Xpress Browser will enter maintenance mode until December 2015 when the service will be fully ramped down."
The agreement covers Microsoft's S30+, S40, and Asha devices.
While Microsoft has put its feature phone business in maintenance mode, it's not clear how much existing stock it has, how many yet-to-be-released handsets are still in the pipeline, or long it will keep manufacturing the lower-end devices.
Last month Microsoft surprised some by launching the $25 S30-based Nokia 130. Jo Harlow, head of Microsoft's Phones unit, said at the time that it was the only platform the company had to reach buyers of sub-$35 phones who collectively buy 300 million handsets each year.
Today, Rich Bernardo, head of 'legacy business' Phones for Microsoft said: "We continue to sell and support classic first and feature phones as well as the Asha range, which have performed well with millions of people who want new mobile experiences at lower price points."
"The agreement with Opera will enable us to provide continuity of service as we transition from Xpress Browser to Opera Mini."
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