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Opera, Microsoft, and the Mobile Browser Market 245

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the web-surfing-on-the-go dept.
DrEspenA writes "Salon has an interesting article on the competition for the mobile phone browser market. Ostensibly the article is about Microsoft's efforts to dominate the market, but the key protagonist is really Opera Software, which may be gaining the (initial) upper hand simply because they are not Microsoft. Good discussion of whether standards and familiarity really is necessary in the mobile browser market."
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Opera, Microsoft, and the Mobile Browser Market

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  • Mobile browsers? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by minghe (441878) on Friday November 22, 2002 @05:53AM (#4730633)
    Dammit. Make the moille screens decent first.
    • Re:Mobile browsers? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Cheese Cracker (615402) on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:13AM (#4730705)
      Dammit. Make the moille screens decent first.

      You want to walk around with a clunky 15" screen? Well, not me. :) Mobile phones will not replace computers anytime soon for browsing the web, but the SSR (Small-Screen Rendering) is a step in the right direction. It will make it easier to browse websites in the mobile phone. No more need to scroll the screen sideways. Anyway, see the mobile browser as a complement rather than replacement for the real thing. :)
    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:33AM (#4730763) Homepage Journal
      Actually I would suggest a different approach: make websites decent. For goodness's sake, it's not like mobile phone displays can't display text, and isn't that what hyperTEXT is all about? It's not the fault of hardware manufacturers that designers chose to assume that people have a certain screen size. If they hard-code the width of their pages as 800 pixels and their pages read like crap for someone who has less than that, it's the designers' fault, not anyone else's. It's a decission to make, and both ways have their merits and shortcomings.

      Having said that, I don't think most mobile phones are good for web surfing. Reading short messages is ok, but massive amounts of text just do require painful amounts of scrolling on such a small display. Since I like to type, too, I'd rather go for a handheld like those Psion organizers, that have a landscape-oriented display with a fairly decent keyboard under it. If only their hardware wasn't incompatible with everyone else's (save for the styli and batteries) I would buy one (well, money is a concern, too). But that's not a phone, I know.

      Anyway, more power to Opera. They've always delivered a great product, and although there seems to be a strong resistance to closed software from the hackers side, and a strong resistance against anything non-MicroSoft on the non-hacker side, I sincerely hope Opera doesn't go the way BeOS did, but either flourishes commercially or goes open-source before the bell tolls for them.
    • try opera on zaurus..

      will make you feel like getting one.. i guess i gotta sell my liver.
  • why no choice? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bluelip (123578) on Friday November 22, 2002 @05:53AM (#4730634) Homepage Journal
    Why can't I choose what browser I'd like to use?
    • Re:why no choice? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Skiboo (306467)
      Because there's only so many browsers you can fit into a mobile...
    • Re:why no choice? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mr Teddy Bear (540142)
      If you really wanted to hack any of those cell phones then I am sure you could have a choice of any browser you wanted... (even Konqi or Mozilla if you really wanted it) but the fact is that most people don't know or care what browser they use. IE is only used by 98% of the market because it is bundled with windows, not because it is the best. (It may be the best or not, I don't care, but being the best has nothing to do with its success. Being better than crap is all it needed to be)

      At any rate, there needs to be that default browser or else nobody will want to buy it because it is too hard (perceptions count here) for people to set up if they have to select what they want. Why? Because they simply don't know what they want. ;-)
    • It's an embedded device.
  • Open Source? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Russellkhan (570824) on Friday November 22, 2002 @05:55AM (#4730640)
    I guess Gecko is too big to fit a Mozilla based browser into a cell phone, but does anyone know if there are any efforts in the works to get an open source browser that could work in this application?
    • Re:Open Source? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Mr Teddy Bear (540142) <mbradfordNO@SPAMbahaigear.com> on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:00AM (#4730659) Homepage
      Got Lynx? [browser.org]

      What about Links? [mff.cuni.cz]
      • Re:Open Source? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Russellkhan (570824) on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:06AM (#4730683)
        Good call. Forgot about those.

        Only thing is, I bet the cell phone providers and manufacturers are getting paid to make sure that we can start viewing web ads on these phones ASAP.

        Or is that just my paranoia talking?
        • Re:Open Source? (Score:2, Interesting)

          by CaptainZapp (182233)
          I bet the cell phone providers and manufacturers are getting paid to make sure that we can start viewing web ads on these phones ASAP.

          Actually I don't think so. They have too much to lose:

          First, mobile browsing is expensive. If my network provider stuffs my "browsing experience" with just one frigging add (for which I pay for) I'm off their network before they can say "herbal viagra".

          Oh, you mean that I have no choice? Actually I have. I can chose not to mobile-browse at all (I have yet to see the usefulness of internet on the run) and use my mobile phone to make and receive calls only.

          • Re:Open Source? (Score:2, Informative)

            by timmyf2371 (586051)
            I have yet to see the usefulness of internet on the run.

            IMO, there are a few good uses of the Internet on the run. I commute, as do many people, by train to work. During the 15 minute ride I have a few options:
            I can look out of the window at houses and offices
            I can try and make eye contact with the various passengers near to me
            or I can visit various news sites using my mobile device and pass the time by reading interesting stories.

            There can be a use for mobile browsing, but I believe that the devices will need to get better, and connectivity options (GPRS/WiFi) will also need to get cheaper.

            Tim

  • by 91degrees (207121) on Friday November 22, 2002 @05:57AM (#4730646) Journal
    Surely all we need is a very simple system that can deal with sending short messages, possibly with links to other short messages.

    I have no desire to read Slashdot through my phone thanks. I need a decent screen. I may want occasional bits and pieces of information, but this will be very short pieces of info like news headlines. Internet cellphones simply try to do far too much, and be far too much like a desktop PC.
    • well...if AvantGo (avantgo.com I believe) provided a service for cell phones then it would work quite nicely for a lot of news pages. It basically works the same way browsing for a Blackberry works.
      You send a page that you want to a central server which parses and formats it. It then sends it back to your phone and boom...you get images, text, links and everything. I use it for my Handspring all the time and it downloads many of my favorite sites...of course I wish it could compact Slashdot further but I think Cmdr Taco may have to talk to the AvantGo people about it.
    • by TummyX (84871) on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:07AM (#4730685)
      Well if you don't need it don't buy it. If there isn't a need for it, noone will buy it and they'll stop making it.

      Personally, I'd want to be able to google anywhere, anytime. Imagine the largest human library in existance accessible from a device that sits in your pocket.
    • While I agree that the whole "web on the phone" thing is something we don't really need, there are people that disagree with me, notably the Japanese. It's enterainment: we don't *need* entertainment but we want it and pay a lot for it.

      I personally woudn't stand to have browse slashdot on my 4 square centimeter cellphone screen and most of the time I don't have use for it. However, what does happen is that when I'm really bored (or have to wait for a long time), I pull out my Psion Revo+ and download a complete comment page on Slashdot: hours of fun! Of course, the screen on my Psion is way larger than than a cellphone screen, but recent evolutions seem to integrate what we now know as PDA's and cellphones. This together with GPRS, could lead to more surfing on cellphones.
      So the browser on the cellphone is important, not now, but we'll see it coming in the next years. And yes, on my Psion I use Opera and it rocks!

    • Reminds me of something

      "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home." -- Ken Olson, President, Digital Equipment, 1977

      Today, people are convinced that they need a computer (or more) in their home. You might not want this, but there are companies out there that would like this (a new market) and will try to create a "need" (new revenue stream).
    • by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Friday November 22, 2002 @09:21AM (#4731162)
      I wouldn't read Slashdot on my phone, but I do use the Net exclusively for looking up train times, directory enquiries, checking if a plane I have to meet is delayed. I would like to do these from a mobile. The people I do them with already have classic web interfaces. It is extra work for them to do WAP, imode etc. Some will do the extra work, some won't. But I can access them all if I have standard HTML on my phone.

      By the way, Opera7.0 beta (Windows only) can be put into small creen mode. It is worth downloading if you have got reasonable bandwidth. The browser works very well for plain-vanilla HTML that I have tried. Screws up a bit on javascript pop-up menus. This migh well be welcone pressure back to clean, simple web pages designed to give you information instead of high-energy jazzy pages intended to impress you with the provider and his web designer without telling you anything.
  • but... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by oo7tushar (311912) <slash.@tushar.cx> on Friday November 22, 2002 @05:57AM (#4730647) Homepage
    Again, I don't trust Mozilla but on my Handspring I use EudoraWeb and I have one of those Wireless cards.

    Also, I suspect that there's going to be some small companies somewhere and all the providers are going to pick a different company and we're going to end up with 3 or 4 small companies that MS is just gonna buy out and gain the upper hand with.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 22, 2002 @05:59AM (#4730654)

    ..If for nothing other than the fact they have a huge ad below this story =D.

  • nice (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Make (95577)
    nice too see that Opera took the chance to get into this new market. Of course, M$ now tries to displace them, like they did with Netscape years ago. I hope Opera gets the fair chance they deserve.

    OTOH, I really wonder why it is so difficult for M$ to rule the mobile market - can you remember when you first heard about Windows CE? Not much happened in all the years, although M$ is throwing a lot of money at it.
    • by trezor (555230) on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:05AM (#4730678) Homepage

      It's probably difficult for Microsoft to rule the mobile-marked because they can't seem to find a cellphone with 256 MB of DDR-RAM and a 1 GHz CPU. Not to mention a physical-media like a harddrive for swapping when you are dialing long-distance numbers.

    • Re:nice (Score:5, Informative)

      by rseuhs (322520) on Friday November 22, 2002 @08:31AM (#4731010)
      Microsoft failed in the embedded market (except on PDAs where they are doing OK) because:

      • WinCE is too expensive. In lower numbers (like several hundred per year), you pay about 100$ per unit (at least that's what I have been told). I have no idea how much you pay for mass-produced devices, probably a lot less. Still you want to standardize on an OS, so you will choose one that can be profitable on both mass-produced devices and niche devices. You won't choose WinCE. Also you usually have only a very vague idea how many units you will sell of a particular device. When your device becomes a smash-hit, you may be easily be paying the WinCE license fees, but if the numbers stay slow, WinCE can turn the numbers into the red, espcecially if you have to lower the price of the device.
      • WinCE is only suitable for PDAs and not really that useful anywhere else. WinCE comes with an good graphics library, but most embedded devices don't need it. With non-graphic applications, WinCE just slows you down.
      • Nobody trusts Microsoft that prices and contracts will stay stable.
      • You don't get the source code. (Yes, the end-user doesn't care, but the embedded developer does.)
      • WinCE doesn't offer anything valuable. Yes, I'll get flamed for saying that, but face it: The only thing Windows does better than other operating systems is running Win32 or WinCE-PDA applications. If you don't need that, why use Windows?
      • Embedded developers are not used to be dependent on the OS. General purpose operating systems became popular only recently on embedded systems. Most embedded systems were developed with no or a specially designed OS inhouse. Moving from the inhouse-OS (with source-code available and no license fees) to WinCE could very well be considered a step backward. The same person might be happily paing for Windows on his PC but would not dream of switching to a non-free (as in having the source and as in beer) OS.

      Yes, I do work in embedded systems. Microsoft has already lost that market. On PDAs, they are still holding out pretty well, but in the long term I see them losing that, too.

  • by Mordac the Preventer (36096) on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:02AM (#4730669) Homepage
    but the key protagonist is really Opera Software, which may be gaining the (initial) upper hand simply because they are not Microsoft.
    You don't think it might be because Opera's browser is more suited to mobiles because it's less bloated?

    • by StefMeister (219044) on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:16AM (#4730719)
      Well, if you read the article you will see that they indeed say there are more reasons to choose Opera besides the "they're not MS"-argument. For example the fact that Symbian's OS for mobiles together with Opera is much more 'tweakable' and allows for more personalized software on the phones.

      I guess they will (mainly) use the "Microsoft is an evil monopoly"-argument to convince the businness-guys and the other arguments for the tech guys.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 22, 2002 @07:18AM (#4730865)
      but the key protagonist is really Opera Software, which may be gaining the (initial) upper hand simply because they are not Microsoft.

      You don't think it might be because Opera's browser is more suited to mobiles because it's less bloated?

      No, I think that "not Microsoft" is a very strong reason for Ericcson, Nokia, etc. to use Opera, even if the Microsoft solution was better.

      As we all know, Microsoft has been very successful in the PC world. They bascially dictate to the PC manufacturers what to do to a huge extent - not just technically, but from a marketing perspective too. If, for instance, Dell wanted to sell a Harry Potter themed PC, Microsoft can say no (and have done). Do you think the mobile phone companies want to be in that situation? Do you think they want their products to become commodities with cut-throat margins upon which Microsoft add software with huge margins and upon which they can dictate the price?

      I'm not saying this because I am an anti-Microsoft zealot, but because I can really see the business sense of the mobile phone companies not having anything to do with Microsoft. This is one of the biggest problems Microsoft currently faces - the market is moving away from PCs to smaller form devices, and the manufacturers don't want anything to do with Microsoft. This is why we will see Microsoft increasingly experimenting with it's own hardware, like the X-Box. Don't be suprised if you find a Microsoft branded mobile phone released sometime in the next couple of years.

    • That quote is actually from the article (last page) where it talks about the fact that most mobile manufacturers are impressed with Opera just because they're surviving against MS, and as another poster has pointed out, because of MS' licensing deals being ridiculously restrictive...
    • The article actually says that Opera does better job of displaying web pages too. They show example of Opera displaying standard and popular web site (designed for large screens) very nicely on a small screen. They describe how mobile IE displays the same page much less nicely, requiring lots of scrolling.

      So, in addition to being leaner, Opera is also impressing with superior results at displaying on small screens. The fact that it's not MS is just icing on the cake -- certainly not the main attraction.
    • Isn't that the same thing?

      I know that since the Microsoft courtcase everybody - both anti and pro MS people - have portraied Microsoft as an huge amassement of (evil or good) geniuses.

      But let's face it: They are incompetent.

      Microsoft is like some communistic state buerocracy. When the money keeps flowing in and nobodys job is at stake, there is not much incentive to work hard.

      Of course Microsoft, the 40000 man company needs 10 times as long to fix a security bug than a 20-man company. Of course every project Microsoft that was started after the 80's and early 90's (like keyboards, mice, WinCE, MSN, MS Bob, Internet Explorer, PenWindows, Windows on non-x86, Hailstorm, XBox, etc.) was making big losses. Of course they did not innovate anything really new and instead just ripped off concepts from somewhere else (first the basic windowing system from Apple, now more advanced concepts like multiple desktops from the Unix GUI. Also the much-hyped tablet PC is nothing new and already existed and failed in the early 90's)

      Microsoft is very powerful and rich. But they also became lazy, incompetent and slow. Everywhere, where Microsoft can't use their desktop domination to push a product, it is doomed to fail. - Simply because Microsoft is too slow and too expensive to create a competitive product that can survive on it's own. (Just look at XBox. It came out 2 years after Playstation2 (= too late), it features a short-term low numbers design for a long-term, mass produced project (off-the-shelf design where a custom design would fit best =stupid design), they are pumping about 200 million per quarter into it, and it still has fallen behind PS2 and Gamecube. Unlike Sony and Nintendo who have higher development costs and will sell so-and-so many units to break-even, Microosft will never break even. The more the sell, the deeper they get into the red. There is no hope for XBox, Microsoft may keep it alive for a few years until it's livetime is over, but XBox, the platform is doomed and there will be no XBox2. There is no way they can put out a product competing with PS3 at the sime time. First, because they already have choosen a stupid design and second because they are not very competent, especially in the gaming market.)

    • by dzym (544085)
      Untrue. We did some memory usage tests the other day with Opera, Mozilla, and IE.

      After 4 or 5 hours of going around and visiting the same sites, etc., the memory usage was around 15M for IE, 25M for Mozilla, and a whopping 35M for Opera.

      Now, IE may be excused because a lot of the resources it uses are already factored into the rest of the system, but Opera using a whole 10M more than Mozilla is just unconscionable.

      • by Skiboo (306467) on Friday November 22, 2002 @02:06PM (#4733231) Homepage
        As someone who's done a fair bit of browsing on a system with 32MB of ram, (this doesn't leave much once windows takes a bite), I can assume that the reason Opera is using that much ram is because you have tons of ram free.

        Kinda makes sense, if you have ram, you might as well use it as a cache of pre-rendered pages (or whatever else they use ram for.) Notice how easy it is to press the back button 30 times in IE, then do it in Opera.
    • IMO the best point in the article was that M$ has made PC hardware irrelevant and interchangeable. It's a little more complicated than that, and most /. readers probably don't consider all the video cards on the market interchangeable, but what's the difference, really, between a Dell and a Gateway? Nokia and Erricson and Motorola want to continue to distinguish themselves from one another, and they're afraid if M$ dominates the phone market consumer choice will be about software, not their snazzy hardware.

      Also thought Von Tetzchner has a point with phones being about personal expression and style.

  • by kitsook (516402) on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:05AM (#4730675)
    ... why would i need a browser when gprs is so expensive and slow?
    • by yatest5 (455123)

      ... why would i need a browser when gprs is so expensive and slow?

      Don't put the cart before the horse! Until there is widespread need for the speed there is no encouragement to the networks to invest in their infrasturcture. Take the internet as an example - its been slow and crap for year, but now the plebs want streaming movies broadband is breaking out all over the place...
    • Raw GPRS is expensive, early adopters pay the higher prices, the prices have been dropping for wireless data every month. Unlimited plans for everything comes out someday.

      Also, some Carriers use compression proxy servers, that can give you incredible speed, but you need to use the client software.

      BTW, Why would I need a wireless phone? Phone booths are everywhere! Oh wait, that was 20 years ago...

    • well here in sweden its not that expensive, i use gprs sometimes to get mail and i'm paying something like 0.01$ / kb. i usually get headers and then if i want to read mail i get rest of the mail.

      friend of mine used gprs when he was in tunisia and he was paying something like 1$ / kb. so price of gprs varies greatly depending in which country you are....

  • by krazyninja (447747) on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:05AM (#4730676)
    Standards and familiarity would not be necessary, as long as people (ok, the majority of the people) tend to use the cellphone AS A cellphone. The moment you start to talk about a cellphone being used a mail client, a pocket computer, a storage device, and other "miniature" PC applications, then standards and familiarity become a must. The point is, nobody knows the market yet. Some analysts say, one device for one function is the best, some say a do-it-all device is better. And the market has not said anything yet.

    • Normal cellphones? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jawtheshark (198669) <{slashdot} {at} {jawtheshark.com}> on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:54AM (#4730815) Homepage Journal
      Depends on where you live. I have a cellphone but I rarely use it to talk. Main usage is SMS (chicks love getting sweet SMS'es). Many people, mostly 12 to 25 years olds, exclusively use their cellphones for SMS. Talking? Yes, probably on fridaynight and saturdaynight to meet and it's SMS the rest of the time. So in a sense you could see SMS as Instant Messaging and thus like a classic PC application.
      Also games are very popular on cells too. While I do not see the appeal, many seem to. I bought the most "business-like" phone I found, yet it still comes with 3 games. It's getting pretty hard to find "just a cellphone" without all the bloat. Try to find me a cellphone without Games, Calendar, Downloadable songs, on-screen animations, WAP, iMode or anything that doesn't belong on a cellphone. Only a contact list, talking function and SMS function... Find me such a beast and I'll agree there still are "just cellphones".

      Besides, don't forget the Japanese. They surely seem to love iMode and they fancy cellphones.

    • Standards and familiarity are not the same thing. "Familiarity" in the context of this topic/article is what MS hopes phone manufactures will figure customers want (eg "better put MS on our phones b/c our customers are used to using Windows"). Standards are what will make it possible for customers to have options in what they use because without standards someone like MS can lock competitors out by making them incompatible with the main.

      It's asinine to talk about MS "familiarity" as a standard because MS is the antithesis of standards -- that's what they do -- take things which are standard, leverage its monopoly on the desktop to propogate incompatibility to fragment things, and then sit and then just hang out till everything's so fscked that everyone has to revert to whatever MS has got, with innovator's suffocated to the wayside.
  • by dsanfte (443781) on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:07AM (#4730684) Journal
    Personally I always found browsing on WinCE mobile PCs to be complicated by the fact that the browser itself likes to take up a good 35% of the screen space. Packing features in is great guys, but the first browser to give a sense of utility without making me feel like I'm browsing the net through a keyhole is the one that gets my money.
    • Yes. I use Phoenix on my proper PC as it allows me to use most of my screen space for browsing. From the top down I've got: the topbar, the menubar, the tab-bar (tabar?), what I'm looking at, the bottom of the screen.

      The tabar would be redundant on mobiles as well, as who's going to do more than just read the news or mail on a mobile?

      Of course, if a similar solution was to be implemented on mobiles you would have to require that the users learn the mouse gestures or something. And considering what technology imbeciles most users are, that's not going to happen. Again, the massed incompetance of people using technology gets in the way of the technology being efficent to use.

      And I don't buy that "technology should be easy to use in the first instance" argument. It's like saying you should be able to drive cars from the first second you're strapped into the driver's seat. If people in general were willing to spend an hour or two (phones are MUCH easier to use than cars are. How many drving lessons did YOU need?) learning how something new works they would save more time than that in a week, never mind a year.

      -Mark
  • by jki (624756) on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:08AM (#4730692) Homepage
    If you are like me and your mobile browser does not come with a highbandwidth access, you might benefit from this Openchallenge submission/implementation [openchallenge.org] from yesterday (not originally crafted for openchallenge). I tried it, and will add it to my toolbox.

    ziproxy is a forwarding (non-caching) proxy that gzips text and HTML files, and reduces the size of images by converting them to low quality JPEGs. It is intended to increase the speed for dial-up Internet connections. Most browsers support gzipped content, so Web pages appear as normal, but as they are only a fraction of their original page size, pages are much quicker to load. Even for browsers that don't support it, hints how to overcome it using SSH port forwarding are included. Images are reduced in size by an average of one third, with only marginal visible image quality loss. It should be used with inetd/xinetd, but if you can't use them, a simple replacement "netd" is provided.

    • just FYI, most european mobile operators (or at least the one I know) have such systems in place (commercial ones).

      You can even choose the quality of the images you want and if you want images.
      • just FYI, most european mobile operators (or at least the one I know) have such systems in place (commercial ones).

        Yeah - I know. I am actually from Europe myself :) The reason why I took this to instant use is that this way I can set a personal proxy for this and have full control of it. I also think it should work quicker, as the performance of the proxy is not affected by others. But surely, there is need for the commercial ones too :)

        • yep, but (at least my) provider configure it as a mandatory transparent proxy, so, not so much use

          A good idea would be to setup one in some high bandwith place (like at work, or at school) and then use it when you're dialing up normally. Best if it's on the other side of your personnal dialup system (well, not everybody can be its own ISP, but anyway)
  • by Mr_Silver (213637) on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:09AM (#4730693)
    In Opera, engineers have solved the scrolling problem with something they call "small-screen rendering," in which HTML code is "massaged," von Tetzchner says, "so that it can fit on the screen." The results are intriguing; by examining the structure of the page, the browser produces a small-screen version that includes all the important content but requires only vertical scrolling.

    Am I the only one that thought that this wasn't particulary unque? Hell, Lynx has been doing it with text for ages and AvantGo (with "display tables" turned off) does exactly the same thing.

    Whilst the Opera guy may think that the browser war is hotting up (he's wrong, MS have won, everything else is relegated to the niche position and always will be - there are far too many Joe Blow users out there), they are definately onto a winner in the mobile arena.

    Oh finally, for those that don't know, Sendo are not a well known manufacturer of mobile phones here in the UK. The reason being is that they don't sell under their own brand. Their business model is to create cheap network operator branded phones and for that, they do pretty well.

    • by trezor (555230) on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:48AM (#4730795) Homepage
      • Am I the only one that thought that this wasn't particulary unque? Hell, Lynx has been doing it with text for ages and AvantGo (with "display tables" turned off) does exactly the same thing.

      This is different. While Lynx just plainly ignores html-table-tags and replaces them with linebreaks, this Opera thingy is actually doing reformatting of the page, after a full analysis of the layout.

      Even though I don't know how well this works, it seems like a extremely clever algoritm, and shouldn't be underestimated as simple table-dropping, which is actually a lack of standard features.

      From the opera-quote:

      • "massaged," von Tetzchner says, "so that it can fit on the screen."

      This implies more than mere table-dropping to me at least, and especially if you read the press release (no I will nothunt it down for you).

    • Hell, Lynx has been doing it with text for ages

      You are joking, right?

      Rendering HTML in text mode is one thing. Add CSS, Javascript, DOM etc and it's an whole nother story.

      I'm not saying that all these technologies are so great, but a large amount of sites rely on it today. Being able to render a document that contains all that stuff properly is unique by itself. There are only a handful of browsers that can get close.

      What Opera does is difficult because not only are they trying to support all these technologies, but they also have to deal with these other trivialities that Lynx can conveniently ignore, called graphics/images.
    • Actually, you can do the same thing in the gecko engine (or any other CSS compliant browser), it's just a stylesheet:

      http://daniel.glazman.free.fr/weblog/archived/2002 _10_20_glazblogarc.html#83455700 [glazman.free.fr]
    • Picture [mbnet.fi]of opera's small screen rendering from Opera 7 beta, showing http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=45764&cid=4730 693 [slashdot.org]
    • *Every* browser reformats the text to fit the screen width. That's exactly what HTML is about. I don't see how Opera has done anything special, unless the existing small-screen browsers are really screwing up. (FWIW Dillo does work very nicely on small screens such as Ipaqs.)

      There could be a problem with absolute widths specified in CSS styles ('width: 500cm') but I don't think many web pages do that. And if you do find absolute widths or pixel widths, well just ignore them. It's not hard to do if you already have a working HTML display engine.
  • UI Customization (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ensignyu (417022) on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:11AM (#4730701)
    The article has quite an emphasis on companies being able to customize the appearance of the software UI. I'm not a smartphone user, but I don't think the screen appearance has nearly as much glamour/show-off appeal as chic faceplates and such.

    My opinion is that Opera's supposed smart "massaging," also mentioned in the article, will be hailed as easier to use than Microsoft's Pocket IE, and thus play a larger end-user role than vendor customizing.

    Although, it is nice to see vendors say that the Windows UI is bland, ubiquitous, and doesn't possess the uniqueness that Nokia et al. want.

    Business deals and positive/negative corporate assocations usually trump user comments and design staff, IMO, but not always.
  • Standards, uh? (Score:4, Informative)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:17AM (#4730724) Homepage Journal
    ``Good discussion of whether standards and familiarity really is necessary in the mobile browser market.''
    What standards? Do you mean the de-facto standard for desktop computers (MicroSoft), or the vendor-independent web standards, which Opera has traditionally supported like no other?

    ---
    ``The nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from; furthermore, if you do not like any of them, you can just wait for next year's model.''
    -- Andrew S. Tannenbaum
  • Bad Reasoning... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NanoGator (522640) on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:18AM (#4730727) Homepage Journal
    "...which may be gaining the (initial) upper hand simply because they are not Microsoft. "

    Err right. That might be true in the /. Community, but the reality is that the vast majority of people either really don't care. Outside of Slashot, the real world isn't exactly vindictive against MS. Not everybody's running around being masochistic just for the sake not using MS stuff. "I spent 3 weeks making my Linux box do whatever my Windows box was already doing!" Whatever.

    The reason that Opera could be gaining ground is that they made a good product. That's it. Even in the mobile market. I got a chance to use a Zaurus running Opera, and found it to be a rather pleasant experience. It definitely kicked IE on PocketPC's butt.

    However, I'm not exactly picketing Opera to make a PocketPC version. Why? I don't browse the web on my PocketPC. It's a horrible experience. Not because IE is bad (although it is, at least for browsing the web) but because the PDA doesn't give you the resolution and speed you need. It works great with Avantgo, though. No complaints there. With AvantGo, the pages are formatted to PocketPC. As long as I have AvantGo (even works wirelessly), then I don't care if it's Opera or IE, or even Mozilla.

    Opera doesn't have a whole lot of chance of gaining ground until PDAs become capable of viewing entire web pages. I don't think that tech is very far away. LCD technology has gotten a lot better in the DPI realm. It won't be more than a year or two before those tiny devices can run at 480 by 640. When that happens, Opera suddenly becomes an interesting alternative.

    It's a pity, really. I think Opera deserves more attention on /. than Mozilla as an MS browser alternative. Zealousy abounds I guess. I say that because the only ding I can see against Opera is that it's Ad-supported. I'd care except they show cartoons in that banner window. Heh.
    • by nagora (177841) on Friday November 22, 2002 @07:05AM (#4730840)
      Err right. That might be true in the /. Community, but the reality is that the vast majority of people either really don't care.

      That's a consumer argument. System sellers, i.e. the phone manufacturers, have seen what happened to IBM when they made the mistake of allowing MS to control the "user experience" and they don't want it to happen to them.

      As it happens, Opera is a very good browser anyway. If it was open source it would get more support and would develop faster.

      TWW

    • by Russellkhan (570824)
      Err right. That might be true in the /. Community, but the reality is that the vast majority of people either really don't care. Outside of Slashot, the real world isn't exactly vindictive against MS. Not everybody's running around being masochistic just for the sake not using MS stuff. "I spent 3 weeks making my Linux box do whatever my Windows box was already doing!" Whatever.


      Actually, if you'd read the article, you'd have seen that the advantage Opera has in not being a MS product is that the MS browser will only run on a phone that has an MS operating system - and not many cell phone manufacturers are interested in going for that option at this point.

      It's a pity, really. I think Opera deserves more attention on /. than Mozilla as an MS browser alternative. Zealousy abounds I guess. I say that because the only ding I can see against Opera is that it's Ad-supported. I'd care except they show cartoons in that banner window. Heh.


      Why exactly does Opera deserve more attention than Mozilla? Having only one ding against it doesn't make it better unless you're saying that Mozilla has more dings against it. And the way I see it, Mozilla has several advantages over Opera:
      • It's Open Source, so it's not just a browser, it's the basis of several different browsers
      • It's free - without ads (If I want cartoons, I'd rather go someplace like OddTodd [oddtodd.com] where I choose what to watch and when I'm going to watch it)
      • It's freely distributable so I can give a copy to my friends without worrying about legality
      • It has better support for web standards
    • It's a pity, really. I think Opera deserves more attention on /. than Mozilla as an MS browser alternative. Zealousy abounds I guess. I say that because the only ding I can see against Opera is that it's Ad-supported. I'd care except they show cartoons in that banner window. Heh.


      Wait... Wait... DING! DING! DING! Must be that open source ding making itself known. But who would expect it on /.?

      Personally I have Opera loaded, and used it for a couple websites when Mozilla wasn't working with them, but these days Mozilla doesn't seem to have nearly as many problems and, to boot, it has been getting faster. The speed difference was apparent when I upgraded from my month old nightly build to 2002112008. The speed feel is about 1/2 between Phoenix (fast) and the month old Mozilla (sluggish). Sweet...
    • Re:Bad Reasoning... (Score:3, Informative)

      by WhaDaYaKnow (563683)
      It won't be more than a year or two before those tiny devices can run at 480 by 640

      About two years ago, my wife brought home the prototype of a PDA/cell phone thingy. (the day before Andy Grove had showed the exact device at a wireless conference; I still wonder how she got a hold of it :-O) I can't remember the name, but it was once covered here on /. I believe it may have been a Korean company. (that really narrows it down, I know...)

      Anyways, this thing had a 640x480 display and the device itself wasn't really bigger than say an iPaq. The most amazing thing was that it _actually_ worked. The built in phone worked fine and browsing was actually quite acceptable. The only thing that didn't work was the bluetooth pen that was supposed to double as the earpiece.

      Well, I was very impressed to see the device that I had always wanted and had dreamed of. So I played with it for at least 5 minutes, thought 'ok, it can be done', and went back to doing fun stuff.
  • I was unfortunate enough to hear about the "sybian" (www.sybian.com [sybian.com] -- don't watch if your boss is behind you or you'll find yourself in a funny situation) before the Symbian OS. So you can guess what I think of every time I hear about "Symbian"...

    Apparently, others [google.com] has had the same thoughts as me and the comments from Psion is amusing. ;-)
  • Probably... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jaseuk (217780) on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:23AM (#4730741) Homepage
    [i]Can phone makers, and a little Norwegian company called Opera, stop the onslaught?[/i]

    My experience with Scandanavian companies is that they like to stick together. They would much rather deal with someone close by or at least in the European Region.

    This gives Opera another leg up, as Nokia and Ericson are in the same region.

    Jason
  • by Tsk (2863) on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:23AM (#4730742) Homepage Journal
    on that market, and that leader is Openwave [openwave.com].

    Their solution is already selling millions a month.

    The real question is will people use smart phones to browse the web.
  • by Hairy Goat (184134) on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:26AM (#4730747) Homepage
    Opera seems to be taking this market a little more seriously....

    The latest beta (version 7) has the ability to render the screen as if viewed on a small screen (press shift-F11 to toggle the view)... This makes testing instantly easier.

    I just love the opera browser (mouse gestures, tabbed browsing..etc) and have gladly payed for the privilage since opera 5, but thats just my choice..isn't that what this is about.

    There is no way that IE has the market tied down at the moment because they don't control the platform that it sits on. This will be a much better test of browser preference than the artificial desktop browser choice, because MS don't control the platform (symbian platform that is)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:31AM (#4730757)
    Clippy: I see your trying to make an emergency phone call...
    User: Dammit, my cellphone bluescreened again!
    Slashdot user: I bet I could h4x0R the modem and form a cellphone beowulf cluster, but someone said ??? = PROFIT! and then all the cellphones belonged to Bill...
  • by CiaranMc (149798) on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:43AM (#4730783)
    If you want to test Opera's small-screen technology, download the Opera 7 beta from www.opera.com [opera.com].

    Then hit Shift-F11 to put it in small-screen mode.

    From playing with this for a while, it seems to be really very clever about what information it keeps and what it throws away. Browsing Slashdot, for instance, is very useable.

    Also, the cellphone version supposedly retains the ability to zoom in on areas of the page you want to see in more detail.

    The Ericsson P800 and Nokia 3650 will both probably be able to run Opera. Opera's site says they have a version for Symbian OS, but that the only current Symbian handset, the Nokia 7650, doesn't quite have enough memory to run it.

    -Ciaran
    • From playing with this for a while, it seems to be really very clever about what information it keeps and what it throws away. Browsing Slashdot, for instance, is very useable.

      If I have read correctly, the actual "smart selection", image resizing etc. will normally happen on a proxy your cell-phone browser talks to, so that data transfer over the (still expensive) wireless wire is minimized.

  • This reminds me, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NetGyver (201322) on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:54AM (#4730816) Journal
    Of an old PC magizine ad i saw for a laptop. It was a black and white picture of Napoleon standing with his hand tucked benieth his military jacket. The caption benieth said: "It's always the little ones who try to take on the world."

    In essence, that's where Opera stands as they have a lot of potential to be a dominating web-browsing force on the cellphone platform -- If they play their cards right.

    A line from the article struck me odd.

    "Microsoft's browser will work only on phones powered by Microsoft's cellphone operating system"

    This shouldn't be surprising but just *read* that sentance. A cellphone operating system? At least to the laymen like myself, it seems kind of outlandish. But it also gives a clue to what microsoft is aiming for. It's not enough that they want to to be #1 and the only provider of a celphone broswer. That's understandable, just like Opera's motives. But to SHOVE a whole MS operating system in there in the process only reeks of shit that you've all heard before.

    A phone, like a pair of shoes or a car, and unlike a PC or a coffeemaker, is a personal device, a fashion accessory that says something about its owner.

    Yeah, it says "Hey! look at me with my default and super annoying ringtone that everyone hates so much. I'd love to talk but I gotta kick some ass in this fighting game that's causing my vision to blur, which makes it hard when i'm driving while talking on my cellphone..Ow, and this tumor on my head is really itchy, God and the buttons are so...*CLICK*

    (I happen to be an owner of a cellphone :)

  • by biglig2 (89374) on Friday November 22, 2002 @07:18AM (#4730864) Homepage Journal
    Modern phones are creeping towards PDA functionality - browsers, email, contaxt storage, etc.

    Basically the dilema is that a PDA should be PDA sized, and a phone should be phone shaped, and these are different shapes. The Treo tries to find a middle ground, and doesn't do too badly, but I still prefer the two-device model, where my phone and Palm are seperate but can talk to each other easily (thru bluetooth, etc.)
  • by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Friday November 22, 2002 @07:26AM (#4730884)
    Having seen Operas SCB (Small Screen Browser) I think it is really rather ingenious. This is alot better than any other attempt to expand the usefulness of GSM telephones and that includes services that use SMS to implement a browser system, WAP and iMode. The Opera SSB parses HTML files to make them easyer to render on a small screen. I have seen the thing work I think that this solution is pretty because it does not require you to make any changes to your site and even when the SSB fails to parse a website properly it is easyer to create a new simplified SSB version of the site using HTML and other standard technologies than it is to create a special site using WAP or iMode. I have do have my doubts about how easy it will be to deal with frames pages or pages that are heavy on graphics.

    What this new Opera small screen technology really does is to make it easyer to create webcontent aimed at GSM phone users and palmtop users, lets not forget them. To be able to create HTML based webcontent kicks the ass off of iMode and WAP because it is much easyer to, say create a Smallscreen version of your website in a proper web design package like for example Dreamweaver or perhaps by using XML and Style sheets than it is to create a WAP version from existing HTML material. I would be alot happyer creating two different versions of my site using some Library function in Dreamweaver for storing the content and displaying it in different HTML templates enabling me to make changes to both versions at the same time than I would be to create a WAP version since it would be harder to keep it current.

    That being said I will miss Opera when Microsoft stomps them into the ground and dances a Seattle folk dance on Operas mangled corpse.
    • "That being said I will miss Opera when Microsoft stomps them into the ground and dances a Seattle folk dance on Operas mangled corpse."

      Does "self-fulfilling prophecy" mean anything to you?
      • Definition:
        A self fulfilling propecy is an asumption or prediction that, purely as a result of being made, causes the expected or predicted event to occur and thus confirming its own accuracy.


        I fail to see how my little prediction would actually cause Opera to be ripped apart and eaten alive by Microsoft. I can only wish I had that much clout! If I did Linux would rule and Ariel Sharon would have an Iron fist twisting his balls on settling the Middle East issue of a fully sovreign Palestinan state. On the other hand I will freely admit to indirectly predicting the patently obvious.

        Regards
        Savage-Rabbit
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 22, 2002 @07:42AM (#4730905)
    Who has the largest market share when it comes to browsers for mobile phones? You probably don't know because you never see their brand. If you don't count all the Nokias out there the major player is AU-system [ausystem.com]. So if you're not using a Nokia and you don't have an expensive EPOC based phone you probably have the "AU Mobile Suite" in your phone. There are a few other suppliers, but Microsoft is actualy quite small. :-)
    • Yeah, and I know first hand why. Micro-IE or what ever they are calling it now was a huge heaping pile of dung. No I'm not pulling one out of my ass. I used to work at a small phone company and had long discussions with the embedded engineer who was responsible for integrating and testing IE on phones. The memory requirements back in 99 was around 600-700kb minimum if you stripped it down to the absolute bones. When you compare that to the other browsers available in 99 like WAP browsers 600kb was not acceptable. The most expensive parts of the phones are memory, lcd and battery. The newer reference boards for CDMA from Qualcomm have much more memory than the ones based on x86 back in 97-2000. When you consider phones used to use x86 chips, the whole memory issue becomes a huge headache. Now that most chipsets for phones are risc based, things like banking/swapping memory are no longer an issue, but memory still is one of the more expensive components of a phone. People are probably gonna say, "64meg dimm goes for xx.xx dollars." Well think about how much the popular phones cost? Most are under 60 bucks for entry level phones. Once you add up all the costs, you realize most manufacturers are either subsidizing the phone or only make 1-2% margin.
  • fastest ever (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nuckin futs (574289)
    with current mobile connection speeds topping out at 128kbps, maybe the best browser to have on a mobile device is lynx.
  • by Bas_Wijnen (523957) on Friday November 22, 2002 @08:00AM (#4730948)

    On Sendo's leaving Microsoft and using Symbian, where they get the source and are allowed to tweak with it:

    Was it a technology problem -- did Microsoft's software work? "It was a not a technology issue," she said. "I cannot go into all the details about it, but our business model is to offer very customized phones so they have something to distinguish themselves in the marketplace, which we cannot offer if we don't have the source code."

    Microsoft dismissed this explanation. In an e-mail, Suwanjindar said that Microsoft's "shared source" model "provides partners with the APIs [application programming interfaces] they need in order to customize and develop applications for our platform."

    Sendo: We don't like your deal, it isn't flexible enough.
    Microsoft: We'll give you our API's.
    Sendo: API's aren't as flexible as the full source code.
    Microsoft (handwaving): API's will do.
    Sendo: No, they won't.
    Microsoft (handwaving again): APIs will do.
    Sendo: No, they won't! You think you're some kind of jedi, waving your hand like that?

  • by grungeman (590547) on Friday November 22, 2002 @08:25AM (#4730996)
    There is a really good Java HTML component called WebWindow (http://home.earthlink.net/~hheister/ [earthlink.net]). The designer focused on memory consuption, which makes it a great option for mobile devices. And since Microsoft seems to be losing ground at least on the mobile phone market, this could become another competitor.

  • by Jacek Poplawski (223457) on Friday November 22, 2002 @08:41AM (#4731034)
    Please do not blame Opera for not being open source. I remember I was using Opera in 1998, it was fast, it was small, it was usable. MSIE was always huge, slow, and bloated. But, Netscape wasn't much better. Now, after 4 years, there is free browser - Mozilla. I use it every day. But it's far from perfect. In 3-4 years they added irc client, mail/news stuff, and who knows what else. They completly forgot about speed. MSIE was huge? Compare 1998 MSIE with todays Mozilla.
    I am not using Opera, because I have strong computer and I can waste resources for such product like Mozilla. But there are places when Mozilla is not a right thing.
  • by Balaitous (126540) on Friday November 22, 2002 @08:46AM (#4731047) Homepage
    Try http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PT O2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2Fsearch-bool.ht ml&r=0&f=S&l=50&TERM1=Microsoft&FIELD1=ASNM&co1=AN D&TERM2=browser&FIELD2=&d=pall [uspto.gov]
    So what they don't get by technology, they might try to force by litigation, particularly if software patents would be officialised in Europe.
  • When you are talking about standards in the context of browsers, u're usually talking about whether or not they comply with them and thus whether or not they encourage web developers to take advantage of "features" which are nonstandard. MS makes deliberately non-standards compliant browsers in order to seduce web developers and unknowing (Office and Frontpage) users into increasing the number of sites which dont work right in Netscape, Mozilla, Opera, etc. This is a disgusting manipulation and attempt to take over for one's own purposes something which was intended to be universal and available to all.

    Therefore, implicitly equating "standards" with MS's "familiarity" while talking about browsers is dumb. If MS doesn't take over by convincing the phone companies that their phones need to be maximally familiar to windows users, then there is some hope that standards compliant browsers such as Opera will prosper in this sector.
  • What's to stop 'em? Not like that can't afford it. The only thing I see stopping them would be pride.
  • they don't get it (Score:2, Informative)

    by captainspudly (551559)
    The Openwave (www.openwave.com) browser is already leading. It targets the small screen and limited input you will always have on a phone. Even if phone displays get better, phones will always have constraints that desktop browsers will never have. Openwave recognizes this.
  • by leeet (543121) on Friday November 22, 2002 @11:24AM (#4732024) Homepage
    ...it lacks MANY interesting functions such as rotate (90 degres) for a landscape view. It's really sad when you get a page designed with a certain "fixed width" in mind, you need to keep scrolling from right to left and you can quickly give you a headache while reading..! There is no copy/paste which is *really* annoying when you want to cut/paste long URL's and it doesn't do tabs.

    For those reasons, I'd say that Konqueror is a much better choice. Both of them run on the Zaurus (K runs on OpenZaurus, which BTW kicks azz)

    IE on a handheld? No way, I don't want to permanently have a 512M CF in it just to run IE!
  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Friday November 22, 2002 @12:27PM (#4732396) Homepage

    No, not recognition of the brand and fear of them, the brand itself. MS values it's Windows brand highly. A product is no good for them unless it prominently carries the Windows brand on it. That's why they're so adamant about retaining their logos and appearance on the desktop. The problem is, to a phone manufacturer thier brand is incredibly important, much more so than the hardware and firmware in the phone. If you pick up a Nokia phone and it doesn't have their brand clearly visible, if instead the most clearly visible label is some other company's, this is not in Nokia's best interest. I don't see any way MS can shell out enough money to convince the cel-phone makers to give up their brands, so I don't think MS is going to make much headway with them. That's undoubtably why Sendo switched away from them: technical flexibility aside, the MS licensing terms probably prohibited Sendo from removing all traces of the Windows brand and making it appear to be a completely Sendo phone.

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