Opera shrinks Web pages for handhelds

Opera Software ASA has developed a new Web browser that it claims brings the full World Wide Web to the small screens of handheld devices.

The browser reformats, or shrinks, a standard Web page so it fits on the small screen of mobile phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs). Users no longer have to scroll horizontally to see the full width of the page, said Live Leer, a spokeswoman for Opera in Oslo.

Opera is looking to sell the software to hardware makers, who can then install it on their products. No deals can be announced, but Opera expects the first devices with the new browser to be available in the first quarter of next year, said Leer, who declined to disclose pricing for the browser.

Delivering the Web on handheld devices has been a challenge for software makers, handset vendors and mobile telephony operators. Screen size, keyboard variations and limited bandwidth on mobile networks are the main obstacles.

WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) and compact HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) were invented to solve those problems, but those technologies require Web pages to be rewritten for mobile devices and don't deliver an experience similar to the fixed Web.

Perhaps we shouldn't strive to bring the fixed Web to mobile phones, suggested Ben Wood, a senior analyst with Dataquest Inc., a unit of Gartner Inc., in Egham, England.

Wood believes WAP, which basically serves up an all-text Web, is "one of the best ways of presenting information on a mobile."

"I don't think people will be flocking to use the Internet on a mobile phone," he said. "There is sort of a value when you need to read important information right away. If it is not rendered perfectly it is not such a big problem."

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