Opera Wedges Widgets Into Mobile Browser Beta

Opera launched the second beta of its Mobile 9.5 Web browser Monday. The release includes Opera’s new Widget feature, which provides one-click Web content access, according to the company.

It’s only the second 9.5 beta for Windows Mobile phones and the first to add support for UIQ-based handsets. In addition, the Norway-based company released a Software Development Kit (SDK) with Opera Widget manager that supports Symbian Series 60 mobile phones.

“Mobile has been the major success area for Opera. We’re sort of the 800-pound Gorilla in the mobile browsing space. With this new release where we have announced Widgets and some other key features and functions it just kind of extending that functionality,” said Rod Hamlin, senior vice president, sales and marketing in the Americas at Opera, told TechNewsWorld.

The beta release follows on the heels of Mozilla’s launch of the alpha version of its Fennec mobile browser.

Getting Widgety

Opera Widgets, already in use by the European arm of T-Mobile for its Web’n’walk initiative, enables users to incorporate customer-selected Web content in the form of a list of icons on the home screen. Following open Web standards, Opera Widgets enable carriers to customize their user experience and own it instead of what has traditionally been owned by the device manufacturer.

“This brings Widgets to the forefront of what we do. Carriers can be creative with active idle screens and integration now with Widgets,” Hamlin explained.

The new functionality offers a continuity of experience across multiple devices, he said.

“The App Store and Android platform are completely platform-specific applications, and we believe we already have the application platform of the future — the Web. So Opera Widgets will run on your desktop, on your mobile phone, on your Nintendo Wii. And again with our widgets, content publishers and developers can make their applications and services available across any device or platform. It’s completely Web-centric as opposed to device-centric,” Hamlin noted.

Opera Mobility

Opera’s primary customer base is in Europe. It has roughly 75 million users and is mostly focused on the smartphone market, explained Lewis Ward, an IDC analyst.

The company’s focus on the smartphone has recently come up against a trend by phone makers to include their own browser, as in the case of Reseach In Motion’s handsets, Apple’s iPhone and HTC’s G1 handset running Google’s Android platform.

“What they do primarily on the mobile side is develop browsers. They’re sort of branching out from the browser space into helping developers connect Web-based assets to either widgets or small applications on mobile devices,” Lewis told TechNewsWorld.

Opera is not approaching its widgets from an operating system perspective, as is the case with the iPhone, G1 and RIM handsets, Lewis noted.

“Those have their own operating system, so it ties more deeply into the operating system on the device,” he said.

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