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Opera Mini Takes eBay Mobile

Through a custom version of the Opera Mini Web browser, eBay sellers and buyers can bid and buy using their mobile phones just as they do on the PC.

Laurie Sullivan

June 7, 2006

3 Min Read

Opera Software ASA began a joint project with eBay Inc. on Wednesday to bring the auction site's marketplace to mobile phones in Germany.

Through a custom version of the Opera Mini Web browser, eBay sellers and buyers can bid and buy using their mobile phones just as they do on the PC. The Opera Mini HTML Web browser offers direct mobile access to content through an eBay search field and bookmarks displayed on the browser's start page.

eBay Germany supports 20 million customers, out of 193 million registered users worldwide, making it the largest eBay community following the United States, according to Opera Software spokesman Eskil Sivertsen.

Opera Mini renders pages faster by processing them through a remote server before serving them up to the cellular phone, Sivertsen said. "We compress the pages by about 80 percent before sending them to the handset," he said. "The amount of data you're trying to transfer really dictates the speed."

Opera's Small-Screen Rendering (SSR) technology reformats pages to fit the width of the mobile screen. The Web browser can run on any phone supporting Java, which accounts for about 700 million phones, Sivertsen said.

Susan Kalla, telecom media analyst at Caris & Co., pegs this year's total global market for cellular phones at about one billion, and estimates 40 million smart phones could ship.

An increase in cellular phone shipments has prompted interest from software developers hoping to enter the emerging mobile content market. In fact, more companies have begun to introduce cellular phone products geared toward eBay buyers and sellers on the go.

Mpire Corp. offers a cellular phone application that makes eBay pricing information available to buyers and sellers on the millions of items sold in the past 30 days. The application called Researcher, which launched in April, helps sellers to understand the eBay resale value based on past transactions, said Dave Cotter, Mpire president and CEO. "We had tens of thousands of people download the Research app, and almost 1,000 people have taken advantage of the mobile piece."

Cotter sees more people using cellular phones and PDA as mobile-information devices, rather than voice communication tools as browsers and applications port high-end functions to devices. eBay sellers could soon have access to information alerts, and financial and payment transactions as more software developers create applications for mobile devices.

Bonfire Media develops applications for the mobile phone market geared toward eBay customers, too. For $3.99 per month, users can download eBay Wireless to shop, compare prices, bid, buy, check My eBay, and receive outbid alerts. Java and Brew mobile phones can support the application. The service on Verizon launched "a few months ago," said Alex Poon, Bonfire Media's CEO.

The Los Altos, Calif., company also offers a free scaled-down version that works on any phone supporting WAP and Web access.

The technology hasn't been the issue. "Many folks, especially in the U.S., don't know their phone is capable of doing these functions," he said. "The biggest hurtle today in the mobile industry is people not knowing their phone is more than a phone. It's a miniature computer."

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