Mobile Browser Wars to Heat Up

Carl Weinschenk

The browser wars are about to heat up again. This time, however, the battle will take place in the mobile space.


This week, ABI Research released a report that said, in essence, that the fun is about to start. The analysts say that people generally don't browse much on mobile devices. At the same time, smart phones have great browsing capabilities and an increasing number of sites are customized to serve mobile surfers. The release goes into good detail on the current status of mobile browsing. While the technology pieces all are not quite there yet, they are rapidly falling into place.


Signs of interest are all around. Opera Mini has been downloaded about 40 million times for use on smart and feature phones. Earlier this week, Opera offered developers access to a version of the Mini customized for Google's nascent Android platform. The story -- which links to the download site -- notes that Android phones are not yet available.


It's been a busy month for Opera. Last week the company rolled out its beta of version 4.1. A PDA Street story highlights some features, which include faster downloads, searching within Web pages and others.


As if to set the stage for the coming battle, StatCounter has released statistics on mobile browser usage. The iPhone/iPod Touch is the most-used mobile browser, according to a story at AfterDawn. The browser -- which is a version of Safari -- is ahead of Symbian in the U.S. but trails it worldwide. Windows Mobile is in third place in the U.S. and overseas.


The stats show much room for growth: iPhone/iPod accounts for only 0.23 percent of browsing in the U.S. The firm says that 0.19 percent of browsing worldwide is done by iPod/iPhone, while 0.25 percent of browsing is done on Symbian run devices. By all accounts, not much mobile browsing is happening.


How quickly things are changing, at least technically, is on display in this TechSpot story about the mobile edition of Firefox 3. The piece says that the browser is showing a six-fold JavaScript improvement compared to the browser Nokia builds into its N Series. The kicker: That browser is based on a Firefox 3 alpha. So obviously, improvements are coming quickly. More information on Mozilla's Firefox mobile developments is available at Ars Technica.


If all that isn't enough to convince observers that a serious mobile browser war is upon us, how about this: At CTIA 2008 in Las Vegas earlier this month, Microsoft said it will offer "full Web browsing" on cell phones this year. This Reuters report says that the company will make Internet Explorer Mobile available to phone vendors during the third quarter. In a related development, the company announced the Windows Mobile 6.1 operating system.


Aside from the particulars raised in these reports, the focus on mobile browsers just makes sense: People love the Internet and are increasingly mobile. Right now, mobile browsing is at a relatively rudimentary stage. Look for that to change very soon.

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