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Opera Goes for Mobile Windows

Opera Software, known mostly for its desktop operating system, has announced that its smartphone browser will be available on Microsoft Windows Mobile devices in the first part of 2005.

Opera uses a proprietary technology for rendering Web sites primarily designed for desktop users onto a mobile device. The technology, called Small-Screen Rendering (SSR), crunches an entire Web page onto the screen, so users don't have to scroll horizontally.

Rolf Assev, Opera's executive vice president for marketing and strategic alliances, said Opera's port from Windows the desktop OS to Windows Mobile on handheld devices wasn't difficult to manage, given the similarities of the two platforms.

Microsoft is pleased to see Opera's smartphone browser on its mobile OS, noting it is an indicator of the platform's success.

"Microsoft is excited to see the increased level of innovation and opportunity generated by the broad adoption of Windows Mobile-based devices," Mark Spain, director of Microsoft's Mobile and Embedded Devices Group, said in a statement. "Opera's support of the Windows Mobile platform delivers more choice to mobile operators and customers and demonstrates the openness of the platform."

This is the second major mobile OS agreement Opera has made, having been available on the Symbian operating system for some time now. However, Assev said the company is slow to consider other handheld operating systems, such as Palm.

"To be honest, the Palm so far has very little market share, so it's probably more interesting for Opera to port to other proprietary operating systems with high-volume phones," he said.

"The proprietary operating systems [have] traditionally been too small for us to support," Assev continued. "But now, phones coming out with a camera means taller screens and also a lot of memory. With the taller screens and memory you can [now] put Opera on it."

Opera allows Nokia, Panasonic, Psion, Samsung, Siemens and Sony Ericsson customers to download directly from its site.

The Opera/Microsoft agreement is a sign that the two companies are trying to move beyond their contentious history. In November 2001, they got into a row over MSN's failure to render on the Opera browser. Opera officials claimed Microsoft was feeding faulty style sheets to Opera users.

The problem was later corrected, though not before the Norwegian company took its revenge by releasing a "Bork" edition of Opera 7, which translated MSN content into the language of the Swedish chef from the "Muppet Show."

Opera has been fighting for years to gain market share from Internet Explorer. And it has been working with other browser development groups, like the Mozilla Foundation, to develop compatible browser standards.