Mobile Browsing Sector Remains Vibrant and Fun

Carl Weinschenk

Mobile browsing is big business, but it hasn't reached the point where the pure creativity-the thing that developers crave-has been completely wrung out of the process. Alas, that day comes for every sector. The amount of news in the mobile browsing realm, and the nature of that news, suggests that developers still are at work, happily transforming vision into code.

 

TechWeb reports that the beta version of its Fennec mobile browser is available, and that it offers some features that look like its office- and home-bound progenitor. The story says that Fennec, which uses the Gecko HTML rendering engine, has a touch-screen interface that offers zooming, panning and scanning. The story offers some other particulars about Fennec, and says that it now is only available for the Nokia 810 Internet Tablet. There are emulators for Linux, Mac OS X and Windows, and a version for Windows Mobile and Symbian is expected by year's end.


Meanwhile, Bitstream said that its BOLT mobile browser already has provided beta users more than 15 million page views since its release at the Mobile World Congress last month in Barcelona. Since then, according to a press release posted at MobilityWire, 300,000 new users have downloaded the platform. The company claims BOLT is the only browser to enable video streaming on "average" mobile phones and that one-third of the bandwidth employed by the beta customers was used for streaming. The release also says BOLT is designed to stretch battery life, a big issue for anything mobile.

 

There is no shortage of news on the mobile browsing front. Opera has released its Turbo technology for testing. The company says that Turbo uses compression to provide as much as a fourfold increase in loading speeds, according to Rethink Wireless. The story says the target is browsers using slower connections. The compression degrades resolution and probably wouldn't be viable in a faster environment. The story also discusses moves being made by Microsoft with its Silverlight initiative, which the writer describes as Redmond's "challenger to Adobe Flash." Silverlight for Mobile, the piece says, will remove features from the PC version in order to make it viable as a mobile platform. Insight into the technical underpinnings and future of mobile browsing is offered at ZDNet.


Perhaps the most interesting statistic released by comScore -- reported on at jkOnTheRun -- is that the number of mobile phone owners in the United States who browsed daily between January 2008 and 2009 increased by 107 percent. The number who did so on a weekly basis was up 87 percent, and those who did so "ever in the month" rose 71 percent. A chart provides the raw numbers. The writer provides some context and commentary. The most popular activity-and one that showed a 427 percent growth rate in daily users-was social networking, which wasn't counted in the overall growth figures. The writer attributes the big gains to three reasons: 3G data plans are more common, application marketplaces and sites that are easy for mobile users to use are proliferating, and the browsers themselves are more mature.


Things are getting hot in mobile Web browsing, especially in the United States. Bango, which tracks the topic, said that America is responsible for 29 percent of mobile Web browsing traffic, and has surpassed the United Kingdom to claim the top spot. An accompanying trend, the company says, is a growth in the number of users paying for content on the mobile Web. The colonies are responsible for 57 percent of the money spent in this way, the story says. The commentary says many businesses were taken by surprise by the ability to do business on the mobile Internet. The writer points out that some countries, such as India and Indonesia, have a large mobile browsing population but not as much commercial activity. Portugal, South Africa and Spain joined the UK and U.S. on the top-ten lists of mobile browsers and payment.

 


It's heartening to see a sector that is so vibrant. The number of announcements suggests that a shakeout, which is not necessarily a bad thing, will occur in the coming months as vendors vie for creative leadership and the market share that follows.



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