Mobile Browsers Are Where the Action Is


An understandable but perhaps overlooked ramification of the increase in Web-enablement of mobile devices is the increased importance of mobile browsers.


It's not being overlooked by companies that produce them, of course. ABI Research says that growth will continue, especially in the smartphone sector. The universe of smartphone browsers will expand from 130 million this year to 530 million in 2013. The release says that drivers will be the popularity of the iPhone, various Research in Motion (RIM) phones, flat-rate pricing plans, mobile search engines, video and social media.


There are a good number of mobile browser options. eLearning Slam offers an overview of several. BlackBerry, it says, has a custom browser that limps along with poor JavaScript and no Flash support. Microsoft offers several browsers. In a subtley snarky comment, the writer says that the browsers all are versions of IE4, IE5 or IE6, which means that they have many limitations. Minimo is a Firefox/Mozilla browser customized for Windows Mobile devices and Symbian and Palm each offer their own browsers. Palm's the writer notes, is called Garnet.


Rethink Wireless offers details on IE Mobile 6. The piece says it offers enhanced AJAX and JavaScript support, Adobe Flash Lite 3.1 and better mobile-to-desktop switching. Meanwhile, PC Magazine has the scoop on the Opera Mini 4.2, which was showcased last week. The magazine says that the new version offers faster browsing and more personalization, new skins, better support for YouTube and other video services and can be used on a wider selection of phones. Notes, bookmarks and recently visited URLs can be shared between phones and PCs via Opera Link.


This is a nicely done overview from ABC News on Fennec, the Firefox mobile browser in alpha release. The story points out that Mozilla, the group that makes Firefox, lacks the operating system channel that the other major contenders Microsoft, Apple, and Google (through Android) have. This will make its distribution trickier. Fennec, which means small fox, features easily accessible and easily hidden controls, a smart address bar that guesses what page the user is typing based on bookmarks and browsing history and a function that integrates Fennec with the desktop history, bookmarks and other preferences, the story says.


Increasingly, the fun stuff is on mobile. The devices and applications are cool. It's also obvious that many very smart companies see the mobile browser as the key to controlling customers. The inevitable result is the rash of creativity that we are seeing today.