Opera Software has announced a web browser specifically designed for Windows 7-based tablet computers. “Opera Mobile 11” automatically runs full-screen, includes pinch-to-zoom capabilities, and includes its own virtual keyboard — but there will be no Windows Mobile 6.5 version, and Windows Phone 7 support is uncertain, according to the company.
The new Opera Mobile 11 web browser is aimed at those who have Windows 7 tablets and — while they could run desktop-oriented software such as Firefox or Internet Explorer — want a more finger-friendly experience. A user’s digits may be used to scroll, pan, and zoom around documents, the Norwegian software company says.
As the images below suggest, Opera Mobile 11 runs in a full-screen mode that’s more reminiscent of a browser running on an Apple iOS device than it is of one running on Windows 7. And like Apple’s Safari browser, the current “labs release” of Opera Mobile appears not to provide Adobe Flash support.
In our brief testing, however, Opera Mobile 11 did provide smooth finger operation, pinch-to-zoom functionality, plus useful features such as the ability to switch between desktop and mobile versions of a given website. Built on Opera’s “Presto” engine, the browser carries over features such as the “Speed Dial” user interface (see later in this story), cross-platform bookmark synchronization, and an “Opera Turbo” feature designed to optimize the delivery of pages when bandwidth is limited.
Opera Software said today in a blog posting that Opera Mobile 11 will not be offered for Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 6.5 devices, doubtless disappointing those who had considered Opera’s to be the best web browser for such phones. Windows Phone 7 support is meanwhile up in the air, the company added.
The company’s Dag Olav Norem wrote:
The mobile landscape is changing and Microsoft has moved their efforts away from the Windows Mobile operating system. No new devices have been launched for some time and the market share is falling. As a third party developer and a business, that is a reality that Opera Software has to adjust to.
We know there are many Opera fans who have been eagerly awaiting a new version of Opera for your Windows Mobile devices and we are very sorry to disappoint. But the unfortunate fact is that the platform can no longer provide the revenue potential that Opera Software would need to keep investing in it.
Regarding Microsoft’s new platform, Windows Phone 7, Opera is continuously evaluating that and other platforms and we will make products available when and where there is a business case for doing so.
Opera Software’s product line is confusing in that all of its browsers are said to be built on a common base, but come in Mobile, Mini, and desktop versions. The Windows 7 tablet version announced today is the first end-user-oriented “Mobile” version for x86 devices — previous such offerings ran only on ARM-based smartphones (including those running Windows Mobile, but not the newer Windows Phone 7).
Opera’s web browsers already run on devices including not only Windows, Linux, and Macintosh desktop PCs, but also various PMPs (portable media players) and even Nintendo’s DSi XL portable gaming console. Opera Mobile 10 is currently available for Windows Mobile and Symbian S60 smartphones.
Opera Mobile 10’s final release occurred a year ago, following a Beta 3 released in February 2010 and earlier betas that came out in 2009. It supports both Windows Mobile Professional (touchscreen) and Windows Mobile Standard (keypad only) devices, and includes support for Adobe’s Flash Lite 3.1, according to the company.
The key feature of Opera Mobile 10, touted as “elevating mobile browsing to a desktop-like experience,” is its user interface, which was redesigned with features inherited from Opera’s browser for desktop computers. The interface includes Speed Dial (below left), designed to store thumbnails of frequently launched websites on a page that appears whenever the browser is launched.
According to Opera, its browser also features tabbed browsing (above right), complete with visual thumbnails that make it easy to switch from page to page. Meanwhile, navigation buttons have been simplified, and a pop-up settings menu (left) lets users choose whether or not to use compression and to load mobile versions of web pages, the company adds.
Opera Software also offers Windows Mobile users a different browser, Opera Mini 5.1, which used to require a JVM (Java virtual machine) but now runs natively. Featuring a user interface and features (with the apparent exception of Flash) that are similar to Opera Mobile 10, Opera Mini 5 apparently differs in that it is designed to load pages through proxy servers that translate web pages into OBML (Opera Binary Markup Language) before sending them to a phone. This is said to reduce the amount of data transferred and lessen the strain on a phone’s CPU.
Meanwhile, Opera did previously release what it called Opera Mobile 10 for Windows, Linux, and Macintosh. Unlike today’s Opera Mobile 11 release, however, this previous version was intended mainly for web developers, who could run it on desktop computers to see how their sites would render on various screen sizes.
For example, according to Opera, the desktop version of Opera Mobile 10 defaulted to touchscreen mode at a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. However, the screen size and input mode could be modified by launching the program with various shortcuts (Windows) or command-line options (Linux, Macintosh), the company adds.
For example, height and width could each be specified, and touchscreen mode could be turned on or off. In keypad mode, a computer’s F1 and F2 keys are mapped to the left and right soft keys, which activate functions at the bottom of the sceen, while the cursor keys move the virtual mouse pointer on screen, says Opera. CTRL-R can simulate a device rotation, switching between portrait and landscape mode, the company added.
The “labs release” of Opera Mobile 11 for Windows 7 tablets is downloadable now from Opera’s website. We did not see a timetable for the addition of Adobe Flash or other extensions to the product.