By Richard Koman / Top Tech News. Updated February 10, 2010.
Opera announced it has developed a version of its Opera Mini web browser for Apple's iPhone. The Norwegian company said it will demonstrate the new browser at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, Spain.
Jon von Tetzchner, cofounder of Opera Software, said he is "thrilled" to offer the preview and added that the software provides a "fast, feature-rich" experience for iPhone users. Opera on the iPhone brings the company "one step closer" to its mission of "bringing the web to the world," he said.
Will Apple Approve?
The big question, however, is whether Apple will approve Opera as an iPhone application on its App Store. Apple currently only accepts browsers that run on the WebKit engine -- the same engine that powers Apple's Safari browser.
But Apple has gotten into hot water with the Federal Trade Commission over its initial refusal to certify Voice over Internet Protocol applications, Rob Enderle, principal analyst with the Enderle Group, noted. This time around, Apple will be hard-pressed to exclude competitors.
"Given Apple is under FTC review for their application approval process, I don't think they can refuse this application -- but they could break it or limit its capability," Enderle said. "For instance, both the ARM processor and the Opera browser support Flash on other platforms, but Apple will likely make sure Flash doesn't work on Opera any better than it does on Safari on the iPhone."
"Changing defaults will likely be difficult as well," Enderle added, "so that it is the Safari browser that opens when you click on a link. If Opera gets on the phone, it is likely that [Google's] Chrome will soon follow, and Apple will do whatever it can to make sure that never happens."
Opera Mini 5, currently in beta, boasts quite a few advanced features over Safari, including tabbed browsing so users can view several sites simultaneously and "easily jump from one to another," the company said. Another feature is Speed Dial, a display of frequently used pages so users can launch a favorite site with just one click, a feature Safari and Chrome offer in desktop versions but not on smartphones. There's also Opera Link, which synchronizes bookmarks and Speed Dial between the user's mobile phone and desktop computer, and Download Manager, which manages downloads from the browser.
Opera also says its browser offers an intuitive, easy-to-user interface, and is much faster than other browsers because it compresses web pages as much as 90 percent before downloading. Other features include adaptive zoom, in-page searching, landscape mode, and kinetic scrolling.
"Opera has a great browser and offers a great experience," said Ramon Llamas, a senior research analyst at IDC.
Lucky in 2010?
Back in 2008, von Tetzchner told The New York Times that Opera had started work on an iPhone version of Opera but stopped development because of Apple's restrictive developer agreements. Apple initially banned all third-party browsers but finally allowed other browsers based on WebKit.
This time around, von Tetzchner clearly feels he will have more luck with Apple. Indeed, given that Opera is making a big deal about the availability of Opera Mini 5 for iPhone, Opera may have already received Apple's blessing.
"Opera Mini is compatible with every requirement for the App Store," said Christen Krogh, Opera's chief development officer. "We don't think it falls under any of the excluded technologies."
"There aren't any identical applications on the iPhone," Krogh said, discounting Safari as an identical application. "Opera Mini is a different kind of browser, so we cannot see any conflict with any requirements in the App Store."
Krogh said Opera hasn't yet submitted the application to the App Store. "We're comfortable enough [with] where Opera Mini is at to show it to select partners and journalists," he said. "It won't take long before we're ready to submit it to the App Store."