Apple approves Opera browser for iPhone's App Store

Norwegian maker of Opera Mini predicted Apple would OK mobile browser

Opera Mini on iPhone
Opera Mini on the iPhone displays 'tabs' of already-opened pages.

Apple today approved the rival browser Opera Mini for the iPhone and iPod Touch, and added it to its App Store.

"We are delighted to offer iPhone and iPod touch users a great browsing experience with the Opera Mini App," said Lars Boilesen, CEO of Opera SOftware, in a statement late Monday. "This app is another step toward Opera's goal of bringing the Web to more people in more places."

Opera Mini appeared in Apple's App Store shortly after 9 p.m. Eastern time. It can be downloaded free of charge.

Opera submitted the mobile browser to the App Store three weeks ago, and at the time was confident that Apple would approve the submission. "It's not violating the iPhone SDK, and Apple has approved other browsers. I think it would be strange if Apple rejected it," said Jon Von Tetzchner, Opera co-founder and former CEO.

A month before that, when Opera previewed the browser to partners and reporters, Christen Krogh, the company's chief development officer, had dismissed concerns that Apple would deny admittance to the App Store.

Some industry watchers had wondered whether Opera would turn to European Union antitrust regulators if Apple denied Opera Mini a spot in the App Store.

That speculation had stemmed from the Norwegian browser maker's complaint to antitrust officials in late 2007, when it said that Microsoft's bundling of its Internet Explorer browser with Windows stifled competition. After an investigation by authorities, Microsoft began delivering a browser choice screen to European Windows users in March.

Today, Opera claimed that its Mini browser was six times faster than Safari on the iPhone, the speed boost courtesy of the compression that Opera conducts on all data bound for the browser.

According to Opera, its servers compress Web page data by as much as 90% before sending it to the user. The increase should be especially noticeable to owners of older iPhones that rely on an EDGE, rather than a 3G, data connection, said Opera.

"That also saves data usage if you're roaming," a company spokeswoman said today.

Last month, Von Tetzchner hinted that Opera would develop an iPad-specific version of Opera Mini if Apple approved the browser for the iPhone and iPod Touch. "It would run very well on the iPad," he said then.

Opera spokeswoman's declined to confirm that Opera would definitely move forward on that plan, or if so, when it would do so. "But we want Opera on as many Internet [capable] devices as possible," she said today.

Opera Mini is already available for download to the BlackBerry, and in beta versions to Android and Windows Mobile smartphones.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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