Mobile
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2/10/2011
11:41 AM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
Commentary
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Opera Bringing Browser To iPad

Opera Software said that it is working to bring a version of its browser to Apple's iPad.

Opera Software said that it is working to bring a version of its browser to Apple's iPad.Opera Software's latest "State of the Mobile Web" report is out, and shows that over 100 million people are using Opera's browsers on handsets far and wide. More than 90 million use the Opera Mini browser, and another 15 million use the Opera Mobile browser, giving it a total user base of 105 million. But that's not really the big news coming from Opera today.

Buried way down in its press release, Opera states, "At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, new versions of the Opera Mini browser on Android, iPhone, J2ME, BlackBerry, Symbian and even the iPad will appear." Wait a minute, did you catch that last one? Opera Mini for the iPad. Well now, that's interesting.

Apple was initially slow to approve of alternative browsers for its iOS devices. It eventually relented and iOS device users have a handful of options, such as Skyfire and Opera. Skyfire debuted an iPad-specific browser last year, and it was met with huge demand (the Skyfire browser is compatible with Flash, the iPad's Safari browser is not).

It is noteworthy that Opera would make a version of Opera Mini -- and not Opera Mobile -- available to the iPad. Opera Mini is a proxy-based browser and uses Opera's servers to compress data by up to 90% before delivering it to the handset. The reason Opera Mini even exists is to provide a decent mobile web experience to the least-capable handsets. By contrast, Opera Mobile is a full, on-device browser and does all the heavy lifting locally. It is generally used on smartphone platforms. Surely the iPad is powerful enough to handle Opera Mobile?

Whatever the reason behind choosing Mini over Mobile, bringing Opera to the iPad will give iPad users yet more choice when it comes to browsing the web.

"Experts all have some date when they claim the mobile Web will overtake the PC web - we're watching that transition now," said Jon von Tetzchner, Co-founder of Opera Software in a prepared statement. "But, rather than think of numbers, we think of people. 100 million is the beginning of a new era for the Web. In the next few years, hundreds of millions of people will take their first baby steps online. They will make their voices heard across their country and around the world. They will not only discover new ideas, but contribute their own. We defend those voices and celebrate those ideas. It is why we believe access to the Web is a universal right, and no device is more universal than a mobile phone."

What remains to be seen is if something as light-on-its-feet at Opera Mini can support the hunger of the heavy web browsing iPad users. Skyfire is already a solid alternative to Safari, but Safari is no slouch (lack of Flash aside).

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