Opera Software today unveiled the first major third-party browser for Android, the Google-backed open mobile phone operating system.
The Olso, Norway-based firm has a “technical preview release” of its Opera Mini browser available at labs.opera.com for Android developers to give feedback on. This preview will precede a beta release of the browser later this year.
The arrival of Opera mini on Android is seen as “very significant” by analysts, such as Carmi Levy at AR Communications Inc.
“Mobile devices are tomorrow’s gateway to the Internet and all the revenue-generating services that it generates,” Levy told Unstrung.
Google already has a browser for Android, developed using their WebKit engine. But page rendering is currently somewhat slow.
“As mobile devices take their place as the next big thing, mobile browsers could very well be the next significant battleground for vendors interested in establishing and preserving their market position,” suggests Levy.
Opera will face more competition on the Android platform by the time phones using the OS hit the market. Early devices are expected to hit in the fourth quarter of this year, although some developers say it could be another 12 months before the platform goes mass-market. Android is already running on a Nokia Web Tablet.
Google introduced Android last November; it includes a mobile OS, middleware and applications for mobile devices. So far HTC, Motorola, Samsung and LG are among handset providers that have committed to building devices for Android, and Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and AT&T are among the carriers who will offer service on Android handsets.
Many smartphones now incorporate browsers that support AJAX and RSS. ABI Research predicts the open-Internet browser (OIB) segment for mobile will grow from 76 million in 2007 to nearly 700 million browsers delivered in 2013.