Opera, Mozilla Release New Browser Betas

Microsoft is by far still the top dog in Web browsers,
but competing efforts to offer a window to the Web continue, as evidenced
Wednesday when Norwegian browser firm Opera Software, and open source
browser group The Mozilla Organization both released betas versions
of their respective software.

Opera released Opera 7.20 for Windows Beta, a release that
continues Opera’s push to internationalize with support for bi-directional
languages like Arabic and Hebrew.

“Opera 7 has been greeted with cheers from users and press all over the
world,” said Jon S. von Tetzchner, CEO of Opera Software. “By continuously
listening closely to our users throughout Opera’s development cycle over
the years, we have succeeded in creating the very best browser their is.
This technological lead is further expanded with today’s release. The
feedback from our testers has been unison: Opera 7.20 significantly boosts
speed and performance.”

Meanwhile, Mozilla pushed out Mozilla 1.5 Beta, which includes a host of
new features and is the first Mozilla milestone to include a spellchecker
for MailNews and Composer. Mozilla said the release, which is available for
Windows, Mac and Linux users, improves performance, stability, standards
support and Web compatibility of the browser.

Opera and Mozilla (which powers Netscape, although AOL Time Warner recently separ
ated itself
from the development group and now operates under the
non-profit Mozilla Foundation) have become Internet Explorer’s closest
rivals, though “close” is relative term.

According to W3Schools, an organization
which offers free tutorials on World Wide Web Consortium standards and
maintains monthly browser statistics, IE 6 and IE 5 together currently hold
86.9 percent of the market. Opera 7 has 1.7 percent share. Mozilla has 5.9
percent share, or 7.9 percent if Netscape 7 is included.

But as Microsoft continues to tie its browser more closely with its
operating system, Opera said it sees an opportunity to increase share.

In a chat hosted by Microsoft TechNet on May 7, Brian Countryman, program
manager for Internet Explorer, said, “As part of the OS, IE will continue
to evolve, but there will be no future standalone installations. IE6 SP1 is
the final standalone installation”

Countryman explained that legacy operating systems had reached their zenith
with Internet Explorer 6, Service Pack 1, and that further improvements to
the browser would require enhancements to the underlying operating system.

“Microsoft will not develop the stand-alone version of Internet Explorer
further, instead going for full integration in the upcoming ‘Longhorn’
operating system to be released in a few years time,” Opera said. “Internet
Explorer users thus need to buy a new operating system to get a new
browser. This leaves Opera as the only major commercial player continuing
to push browser development, offering a vast number of new users a
continually up-to-date and enhanced Internet experience.”

Like Mozilla, Opera offers its browser on numerous platforms, including
Windows, Mac, Linux, OS/2, Solaris, FreeBSD, QNX and Symbian. The
browser-maker has been increasingly penetrating devices beyond PCs,
including smartphones, PDAs, iTV and vertical markets (automotive
telematics, manufacturing and transportation).

As part of the Opera 7.20 for Windows Beta, Opera has also initiated a
“Happy Hour” campaign. The company said that during two random hours every
day for the next 10 days, Opera is available with a 25 percent discount for

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