Opera Introduces Mini Browser

The company is hoping that its software will encourage more people to begin to log online from their handsets, but analysts contend it will be an uphill battle.

Opera Software released a final version of its new browser for wireless handsets, known as Mini, and said it hopes to spur increased use of the mobile Internet by distributing the application free of charge.

The browser was designed as a simplified version of the Norwegian software makers previous wireless offering, Opera Mobile Browser, which is meant to run on so-called smart phones, or sophisticated wireless devices that offer the memory to store and run such applications.

Mini claims to deliver a better Web experience to more low-end devices, or any handset capable of running Java-based mobile applications, which includes many popular phones already in the hands of consumers.

Built on the same technology used in Opera Mobile, Mini uses a remote server system to compress Web site content and beam it back to peoples handsets.

In theory, that design allows the browser to run on the memory-starved devices that are currently ubiquitous among U.S. wireless subscribers.

Company officials maintain that the browser could run on hundreds of millions of existing phones that use WAP (Wireless Access Protocol) to access the Web, giving it a huge potential audience worldwide versus the smaller numbers of customers using smart phones.

Opera said that during the course of its trials in Germany and Europes Nordic countries, it was able to convince more than 1 million people to download Mini.

The browser is now available for download directly from the companys Web site via SMS.

By giving the browser away at no cost and trying to lure people who may not have been willing to access the mobile Web before, Opera officials said they believe they can spark a new wave of wireless Internet adoption.

With limited real estate on the displays of most of todays handsets, only a minority of wireless subscribers currently use their phones to access the Internet.

"We want to kick-start the mobile Internet revolution, as we feel that Mini is a great alternative for people who dont have smart phones, which is a vast majority of the wireless subscribers worldwide," said Eskil Sivertsen, an Opera spokesperson.

"Distribution of Mini wont happen overnight, but we think that people will pick it up and be encouraged to use the wireless Web more over time."

According to Opera, people who downloaded the beta version of the software viewed an average of between 20 and 30 Web pages per session, which Sivertsen believes proves that the browser delivers a friendlier interface than traditional WAP applications.

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead more here about Operas collaboration with Google.

If more people begin using the application, the company also contends that more Web site owners will be convinced to create customized versions of their pages specifically for mobile visitors.

Next Page: Convincing users and providers.