Opera 7.2 Built for Speed

Opera Software releases a beta version of its next release of its Web browser that features faster performance and support for bidirectional languages.

Opera Software ASA has released a beta version of the next release of its Web browser for Windows that features faster performance and support for bidirectional languages.

Opera 7.20 for Windows Beta, announced Wednesday, focuses on improving Java Script performance, once a weak point for Opera, as well as faster user interface, and Web page rendering and reformatting, said Opera CEO Jon S. von Tetzchner.

"We want information to come on the screen as fast as possible," von Tetzchner said. "This has been a focus since Version 1.0."

The newest browser release also builds on the 40-plus languages Opera already supports. It now supports bidirectional languages, those such as Hebrew and Arabic that incorporate a mixture of writing from left to right and from right to left.

The beta of Opera 7.20 for Windows comes as the Oslo, Norway, company seeks to capitalize on shifting development plans in the browser market. Microsoft Corp. has said that it is ending development on new stand-alone versions of its dominant Internet Explorer browser, instead focusing on upgrades to IE included within Windows. Observers also widely expect AOL Time Warner to end development of Netscape.

"People would like to see their browser updated, and IE is beginning to look a bit old," von Tetzchner said. "From companies running cross platforms or not running Windows, we are seeing an increase in them contacting us and wanting to use Opera."

The Operas browser, currently in the 7.11 release for Windows, traditionally has been used by individuals or been embedded in smart phones and PDAs. While the larger business market once was not viable, Opera in the past few months has begun hearing from enterprises concerned about IE development being tied to OS release, von Tetzchner said.

A full release of Opera 7.20 for Windows is expected by the end of the summer, with versions for Linux, Sun Solaris and FreeBSD to follow soon after, Tetzchner said. It will cost $39 for a version without advertising, while a free download will be available for users accepting ads. The beta version is available at www.opera.com.

Opera also has a Mac version and released last week Version 6.03 to support Apple Computer Inc.s upcoming Panther release of Mac OS X.

(Editors note: This story has been changed to correct an error with the nomenclature of the next Mac OS X release, "Panther.")