New version of Mozilla for mobile released

The latest version of the Mozilla browser for handheld devices, Minimo, is available to Windows Mobile users.

The Minimo Project, the group developing a shrunk-down version of the Mozilla open source browser for handheld devices, released a new version of Minimo on Saturday. The announcement is the latest indication that mobile phones will increasingly be used to access any content that is available on the Internet, analysts say.

Minimo 013 works on Windows Mobile devices, including PDAs and smart phones. It includes a new user interface and displays tabs that indicate multiple open pages. It also features a bar on the left side of the screen containing icons that directly link to common Web sites or applications such as Google, and a list of news Web sites with mobile-optimized pages. The application can be downloaded for free from the Minimo Web site: http://www.mozilla.org/projects/minimo/.

While the overall trend toward the development of mobile browsers is significant because such browsers enable mobile access to almost all content on the Web, this latest release of Minimo is only interesting to a relatively small group of users, said Nick Jones, an analyst with Gartner. That's because it is only available for Windows Mobile, which is only currently being used by a small group of mobile device users.

Minimo might gain more traction in the market if it were available on the more widely used Symbian phones or as a Java application, which would make it usable on a very wide variety of phones, Jones noted. "That's the problem with open source, there's not much of a business model to fund ports onto other operating systems," he said.

Still, the fact that Opera Software, Minimo and others are developing browsers for mobile devices points to a trend toward mobile users being able to access any content on the Web, not just the limited sites that operators have traditionally restricted them to, said Geoff Blaber, an analyst with IDC.

With higher speed mobile data networks available, operators and vendors are beginning to pay more attention to enabling access to more content and to the overall user experience, he said. "In that sense the browser can become important so vendors are really starting to place a significant emphasis on installing a decent browser," he said.

But in order for third party browsers like Opera and Minimo to be successful, they will have to be available on mass-market phones and will need to come embedded on the phones, he said. "Users that get feature phones are not likely to go hunting for the latest version of Opera Mini and download it," Blaber said. Opera Mini is an application that can be downloaded onto Java-enabled phones and used through an Opera-hosted service to access any Web page.

In 2004, Nokia made a financial investment in Minimo but the vendor has been largely quite about any continued involvement in the project. Nokia has shipped some phones with the Opera browser but last year Nokia announced that it is developing its own open-source browser. At the time, it said it would ship its S60 smart phones with its own browser but that S60 licensees could choose the Opera browser as an add-on.

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Nancy Gohring

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