Opera spins Web into mobile phones

The Opera Platform allows network operators to bring online content directly in front of users, in a move that could bring mobile Internet into the mainstream

Opera Software is following up its success with the Opera browser for mobile phones with the Opera Platform, which is designed to make data services more accessible to mobile users.

The product, aimed initially at network operators, uses the browser's rendering engine, with standard Web technologies such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript and DOM, to create a "front page" that appears every time the phone is turned on. The front page can include information from the handset, such as missed calls and messages received, as well as news headlines and other data retrieved from the Internet. The user can follow links directly to Web pages or other data services, within the same interface.

While Opera's browser has already proved popular in smartphones powered by the Symbian operating system -- made by Nokia, Siemens, Sony Ericsson and others -- the new "platform" offers an important degree of integration that was missing, Opera said. "This erases the barriers between what is online and what is local," said Vagolav Noren, product line manager with Opera. "This is going to greatly stimulate the use of online data."

Opera Platform can run on any device with an Opera browser, which includes handsets based on Symbian, Linux and other operating systems, though Opera does not support Microsoft's Windows CE. In practice, said Noren, the software will probably show up first on the Series 60 platform -- Nokia's version of the Symbian OS, which is also used by several other handset makers.

The software could be distributed by handset makers themselves, by network operators or even distributed directly to end-users as a download, Noren said. However, the company sees the strongest demand coming from network operators, who are keen to customise the look and feel of the handsets they distribute.

"This will allow a lot of branding opportunities for network operators," Noren said. "For operators, branding and control of the UI (user interface) is one of the biggest issues right now."

Opera versions are available for Symbian OS handsets such as the P800, the Nokia 3650, the Nokia 7650, the Nokia N-Gage and the Siemens SX1; the Linux-based Sharp Zaurus handheld computer; the older Nokia 9210i Communicator; and Psion devices. The software is also available for Windows, the Mac OS and Linux platforms, and is used in some consumer-electronics devices.