Opera Finishes Its iPhone Browser, Apple Not Likely to Give a Damn

opera iphoneOpera has revealed it's put the finishing touches to its Opera Mini Web browser for the iPhone and has submitted it to Apple. Some folk on the Net are getting excited about it. But they're wrong: Apple's likely to ditch it in the "no" bin.

In its press release on the matter, Opera's team notes it's "put every effort" into fashioning a "customized, feature-rich and highly responsive browser" that "masterfully" mixes the iPhones smartphone superpowers with "Opera's renowned Web experience." It even gets a dig in there at Apple's Safari browser, since it notes its software is a "high performing browser for the iPhone."

According to Nick Bilton of The New York Times, the browser does indeed perform very jauntily (courtesy of Opera's neat server-side Web page compression) and notes that it offers a number of benefits that Apple's own Mobile Safari doesn't such as Web page searches and tabbed browsing.

Bilton also reports that the Opera team is confident that Apple's app store team will approve the browser for use on the iPhone.

But here's the thing: Apple has a strict policy on browser tech used in its third party apps, which must be based on the same WebKit engine that powers Safari itself. Furthermore apps in general must not replicate services contained in the existing Apple offerings, which of course means Safari. On these two counts, it would seem completely impossible for Opera's app to achieve approval--particularly when Apple has recently been clamping down on the sorts of apps it allows into the App Store.

Furthermore while Safari doesn't have an in-page Web search powers, it does support tabbed browsing--up to eight of them. But they're not managed via a visible tab system, since if you think about it the tab interface eats up valuable screen real-estate that is better devoted to the actual Web page content, when you're talking about a tiny screen like the iPhone's.

All in all, Opera's maneuvers are something of a publicity stunt, chiefly designed to raise awareness of their browser tech in general (and maybe even to boost its public profile in Europe, for improved attention in the Microsoft Browser Ballot) since Apple is extraordinarily unlikely to approve the app. But we won't say we're 100% certain about this, since the chaps in Cupertino could surprise us--after all, Apple's just approved unlocked iPhone sales in the U.S., which is surprising for U.S. citizens (though not in the rest of the World, of course) even while it's clearly designed to shift existing stock out of the company's inventory before the iPhone 2010 arrives.

[Via The New York Times]

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