New Microsoft mobile phones will now be loaded with the Opera Mini Web browser as the default browser on the devices under special licensing with Microsoft.
The move was announced in an Aug. 21 story by Reuters, which also reported that Opera had signed a deal to begin running the browser unit of Microsoft’s Nokia division.
“We have signed a strategic licensing deal with Microsoft,” Opera CEO Lars Boilsesen said in a statement. “We are basically taking over the browser building department in Nokia. This means that Opera Mini will become the default browser for Microsoft’s feature phone product lines and the Asha phones product lines.”
That means that all new Microsoft phones in the Series 30+, Series 40 and Asha software platforms will come with Opera Mini preinstalled and that current Microsoft phone users will be encouraged to move over to the Opera Mini browser on their devices from the current Xpress browser that has been installed on the devices, the story reported. “This is a great deal for us,” Boilsesen told Reuters. “We have dreamed of this for more than 10 years.”
The news follows an announcement in July that Microsoft will be slashing 18,000 jobs over the next year, including some 12,500 jobs at its recently acquired Nokia cell phone unit, as part of an integration of the two companies. Part of the process includes consolidating the Smart Devices and Mobile Phones business units into a single phone business unit headed by Jo Harlow, a former Nokia executive in charge of Smart Devices.
As part of the reductions, Microsoft plans to ramp down engineering work in Nokia’s research and development facility in Oulu, Finland, as indicated by earlier reports. The site employs 500 people. Engineering work will also wind down at the Beijing and San Diego sites as they transition to supporting roles, while offices in Espoo, Finland, and Lund, Sweden, will continue to focus on software development.
In addition, Nokia X, a line of Android-supporting smartphones from the Windows Phone maker, will hew closer to Microsoft’s own smartphone OS, according to a previous eWEEK report.
Microsoft completed its $7 billion Nokia acquisition in April 2014, after first announcing the move back in September 2013. The deal took a bit longer than the company expected because it had to clear some regulatory hurdles. The Nokia purchase brought Nokia’s Devices and Services business into the software and cloud services giant’s ecosystem.
The acquisition, originally expected to close during the first quarter of 2014, had encountered some resistance in China over concerns about potential changes to the patent licensing fees charged to the country’s device makers, namely Lenovo, Xiaomi and ZTE. In April, Microsoft announced that the Chinese Ministry of Commerce had officially signed off on the deal.
Nokia was Microsoft’s premier Windows Phone partner. While the mobile operating system lags far behind Google Android and Apple iOS, it has seen some encouraging growth in select markets.
By buying Nokia, Microsoft hoped to narrow the gap between it and its rivals. At the time of the acquisition, Microsoft said it planned to “target the affordable mobile devices market, a $50 billion annual opportunity.”