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back to article Opera plays chicken with Apple iPhone police

Opera's Jesus Phone play is more clever than you think. Yesterday, the Norwegian browser makers let it be known that at next week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, they will publicly unveil an iPhone incarnation of their Opera Mini mobile browser. The general assumption is that Steve Jobs and cult won't actually let the …

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That's very clever

Bravo to Opera for coming up with such a devious way to get around Apple's restrictions. I do have to ask though, do they have the server capacity to transcode tens of thousands of pages as people request them via their phone?

And how are they handling Javascript? I wonder if they're actually using Safari to present transcoded pages as background images so they have access to a Javascript engine...

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re can opera mini servers handle it?

well, opera mini is already running on a LOT of handsets, so far as I know (it's the most usable browser for Symbian S60 v3); I gather some people in the third world with dialup are running it on PCs because it makes the web usable for them. although i admit i have no idea how opera monetise their operation, such as funds their programming or increased demand for the service...

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RE: That's very clever

"Bravo to Opera for coming up with such a devious way to get around Apple's restrictions."

Except if you read the article, you'll see that they're complying with the restrictions...

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<title/>

Good on 'em... but Apple are just going to say that by rendering the 'compressed' mark-up, they're interpreting code.

It's gonna be interesting to watch though.

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turtles all the way down

Yeah, but delving into exactly what an executable/interpretive environment *is* opens up a Pandora's box of worms. Elementary application of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem.

And yes, the terminology of coding theory does include such words as "alphabet" and "language", so your point is strictly true. But obviously pointlessly so. Should be fun, indeed.

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Boffin

Probably not true

How is this an application of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem?

There is a clear delineation between programs which are equivalent to universal Turing machines, and programs which are not.

Godel's Theorem just says that you can write functions like this, and their value is not defined:

bool p() { return !p(); }

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Is Required

While not a fanboy, I generally understand Apple's position from a business aspect, and from that angle I can understand why the no execution thing is in place.

In this particular case however I have to agree that Opera is on to something. What they are doing is not appreciably different than numerous apps that are already in the store.

While the Apple brand can afford a lot of the press that presents itself from some of the app store opportunities that have/will arise, it would be incredibly short sighted for them to deny this app.

However, if it is anything like mini on the numerous other platforms I have used, I don't believe it will gain much traction, it just isn't that good of an app in comparison to TouchOS-Safari. Maybe the new V is substantially better?

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WTF?

Scripting on the server

So all the client-side Javascript is actually run server-side? Over an intermittent 3G data connection? And this is supposed to tempt people away from the iPhone's own browser? I hate to judge this before I've seen it in action, but I'd be vastly surprised to see this work smoothly on anything but the simplest of pages.

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It's a proven system

Opera Mini runs on a hell of a lot of devices, and quite successfully at that. Is it Mini that's installed on the Wii?

I use Opera Mobile myself, which has had its ups and downs, but the latest beta is turning into an excellent piece of kit.

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Go

Re: scripting on the server

"anything but the simplest of pages"

The whole idea with using a sever producing output to a lesser device like a phone is speed.

The more complicated the page is the more advantage there is using a (fast) server to chew it before it is sent to the phone or what ever.

It is quite easily proved too, just download opera mini onto your phone and try it.

I do not know the number of (linux) servers Opera uses for this service but It has to be a fairly impressive data center bye now.

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Stupid move

I see it as a very stupid move.

If the Apple staff--against apparently everyone's view--is reasonable and abides by common sense, and sees value in the application, and applies their own rules fairly, and does not find any conflict with its rules; then they will approve Opera Mini and that is that. But then it wouldn't have required forcing their hand because the application stands on its own merits.

However, if--as everyone seems to believe--Steve Jobs is a maniacal control freak that hates everybody with a differing point of view, who will not ever in a million years allow a competitor to run their own code for the sake of keeping control of the entire platform, and that he will make decisions out of sheer will, irrespective of reason or consequence; then I fail to see how a P.R. stunt like Opera's is going to change his mind in any way. Especially for a small-fry player like Opera*.

I say to them, good luck with that.

* NB: I like Opera, and think their software is great and that they deserve much more recognition than they are currently getting; but I think their recent publicity stunts border on the desperate and stupid.

-dZ.

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Precisely because Opera is a small fry

The FTC and/or FCC will be pretty much forced to step in and start seriously investigating Apple and their policies, and Apple really doesn't want that. It's a PR stunt to get the government involved, since they're the only ones with a hammer big enough to stop Apple's stupid crap.

Either they approve Opera against all the Ts&Cs they've screwed everyone else over with (and everyone else will then go "hey, what about us?") or they reject Opera and it becomes something so overt and plainly anti-competitive that the gov't can no longer ignore it.

Opera has stuck them between a rock and a hard place. Kudos to 'em.

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@Precisely because Opera is a small fry

By what bizarre stretch of logic would any government get involved in this? Apple is quite free to use whatever criteria they desire, and apply it as arbitrarily as they like. They don't have to approve a single app if they don't want to. Granted they wouldn't have any developers left if they did that, but it's their store, their rules, and if you don't like it, there are a bazillion other phones out there that you can develop for instead. Gotta love the free market, eh?

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Market Shmarket

Meh, We're back in bizarro universe when arguably the most restricted and regulated platform in the wild is described as a "free market". Corporations attempt this rubbish all the time, but only the most retarded of sect dupes celebrate vendor lock-in to the extent appletards do.

Nevermind, that's what we have that little thing called "anti-trust" legislation for - Apple *isn't* free to use "whatever criteria they desire", thank fuck, and personally I hope they get shat on from a great height. Go Opera!

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FAIL

Unless you have access to different statistics than everyone else...

...then Apple do NOT have a "monopoly"—or anything even remotely resembling one.

While their market share in the consumer market is higher than most statistics suggest (because the usual data includes corporate sectors and other markets Apple have never been even remotely interested in), there is no way Apple can be accused of having a near-monopoly, let alone an actual one.

The iPhone is NOT the only touch-screen mobile phone with an app store. It just happens to be the only one made by Apple. Even Nokia's S40 mobiles—I happen to own one myself—can run third-party apps.

Contrary to popular belief, there *is* a market in the mobile phone sector that doesn't have an Apple logo on it. And it's quite big too. There's a veritable diarrhoea of models shat out by Apple's competitors each year.

The only "monopoly" Apple have is in making Apple-branded products. Try coding apps for games consoles sometime and you'll see what a truly "closed" platform really looks like.

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RE: Precisely because Opera is a small fry

"It's a PR stunt to get the government involved, since they're the only ones with a hammer big enough to stop Apple's stupid crap"

...but the browser complies with Apple's rules, which means it's going to be allowed anyway.

You really didn't read the article, did you?

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@Market Shmarket

Somebody needs to explain to you what anti-trust legislation is, when it applies, and what the free market means. (It won't be me, because clearly you've made up your mind in disregard to such niceties as facts and reality, and trying to enlighten brick walls was never my strong point.) I swear, the only thing more illogical and wrong-headed than a fanboi is an anti-fanboi....

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Anonymous Coward

In global IT...

...Apple has as much impact as a sparrow fart in a hurricane. They are a minor player, nay, an irrelevant player. That's globally, across all markets.

But in the smart phone market alone... ...they're one of the big boys. And in that market you could argue they have a near-monopoly, certainly at the premium end. Ergo they do need to watch out and be careful they don't fall foul of monopoly laws (which will also differ from country to country). So they aren't really that free to "use whatever criteria they desire" if that criteria can be construed as abusing their monopoly position in the smart phone market.

Until the likes of the Nexus One and N900 begin to take serious market share, Apple must tread carefully. And personally I would love an N900, if the battery life did not suck ass.

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Go

Bizarre My Obama !!

What government would ever see fit to get involved in a college sports dispute ? Why the U.S. government of course. They've decided to get involved in the college football national championship effort (the BCS) so nothing is too small, or whatever, for O-Bama (get it? ... Bama?) to take control of.

Rest assured, the government of the good old U.S. of A. is ready, willing and able to jump into Apple's crap. And it matters not how small or private the situation may be ... control is control.

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Anonymous Coward

It's apple's store

I think some people are forgetting that it's apple's store.

If you had a shop and people kept coming in and offering you products to sell would you ever choose one that was identical (nearly) to one you're already selling yourself?

They will not get investigated for anticompetitiveness as they allow other webkit based browsers to run. It's their firmware and their store so they get to decide what they sell and what application run on it. If you have a problem then either jailbreak it or don't buy it in the first place.

In reality the majority of people (inc. iPhone useres) couldn't care less.

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FIA

Eh?

"Meh, We're back in bizarro universe when arguably the most restricted and regulated platform in the wild is described as a "free market". Corporations attempt this rubbish all the time, but only the most retarded of sect dupes celebrate vendor lock-in to the extent appletards do."

I'm confused, Apple have <5% of the mobile phone market (compare that with around 40% for Nokia for example), they have a larger share of the personal media player market, but there are still numerous examples of competing products out there, and they have a small but growing share of the PC market.

How is this anything other than a free market? If you buy an iPhone there's nothing stopping you moving to another mobile phone once your contract terms have expired, and there's a multitude of other devices out there that not only allow you to make phone calls, but do just about everything else the iPhone does. (There's thousands of symbian apps out there if you go looking.)

"Nevermind, that's what we have that little thing called "anti-trust" legislation for - Apple *isn't* free to use "whatever criteria they desire", thank fuck, and personally I hope they get shat on from a great height. Go Opera!"

1. Apple is free at the moment, they have less than 5% of the market share, that is by no definition 'anti-competitive', if they ever do manage to achieve a dominant market position (remember MS had something like 80-90% of the computer market in the 90s) then I'm sure the anti-trust legislation will kick in.

2. Is this the same anti-trust legislation that was so effective in ending Microsoft's monopoly in the late 90s?

Can someone please explain where this ire comes from with the anti apple crowd? people seem vehemently upset that apple exercises control over it's platform, but don't seem to want to buy anything else? What is it the iPhone does so well and so uniquely that people who seem to hate apple with every fibre want to own one.

I didn't like some aspects of the iPhone when I last upgraded, that's why I have a phone from the dominant manufacturer in the marketplace; but I don't get upset about it. :)

If you don't like apples policies then don't buy their kit, if that represents the view of the majority of consumers they'll change it or wither away and die, but as it is they seem to be making a lot of cash (and, lets be fair, have a lot of happy customers) doing what they're doing.

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Free Market and others.

Well here's a whack of a cluebat for you.. The competing product is Safari, not the bleedin' iPhone. The market is browsers, not phones. Consumers being able to buy another phone is irrelevant.

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Pint

Minor nitpick...

"Is this the same anti-trust legislation that was so effective in ending Microsoft's monopoly in the late 90s?"

Anti-trust legislation does not exist to end monopolies. It exists to ensure the corporations that have a monopoly do not abuse them. The breakup of AT&T was a truly exceptional circumstance, and by no means the norm in anti-trust legislation. As much as everyone was crying for MS's blood, the rulings did cause MS to open up many of their APIs, stop pulling various stunts that got them in trouble, and generally not abuse their monopoly position.

In return for good behaviour, they got to keep their monopoly. As much as I don’t like paying big time money for MS software licences, app for app, they really aren’t that out of tune with the (non-FOSS) software market, and frankly have (mostly) reformed themselves.

Microsoft is no saint, but they don’t tend to engage in nearly as much of the kinds of behaviours as they did to get that lawsuit thrown at them in the first place.

(This comment made with the understanding that MS still get up to some crappy shenanigans. I merely make the comment that the suit succeeded in getting MS to live “at the red line,” forever in fear of a second anti-trust suit.)

Oh, and Apple? crApple? Who cares? Here, have an iBeer...

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Why would I want Opera Mini?

If the javascript is executed on the server side, presumably that means that it can only handle the kind of javascript that runs when you first load the page, nothing interactive.

If this is the case then I can't see why I would use it when there is a perfectly good alternative.

Am I missing something? Is mini actually smarter than that, and can somehow handle interactive javascript?

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Probably smarter than that

They are probably running a browser on the server and basically just using the iphone as a remote display. The client can be thin and dumb and do the limbo right under the Apple requirements. I bet they can even get it to do AJAX stuff. Video - I dunno.

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Pirate

so then

cydia

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Or maybe…

...they're preparing for a new edition of this: http://www.opera.com/press/releases/2009/01/17/

Pondering significant investment in popcorn shares.

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FAIL

Heh.

They aren't preparing for anything of the sorts, since Apple isn't actually a convicted monopolist.

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Paris Hilton

I kinda feel sorry for ...

... people that might not be used to the Apple's way of doing things.

Yes, sure it is different to how other OSs work and favours a closed hardware route.

But that ain't all that bad at all really and with these sort of existential and core design paradigms one has to (or at least should give due consideration to) does it make for something better or for something worse?

And that seems to be a personal question with equally personal answer.

My take: until the Apple nuffs it up badly (iDisk and TomTom do spring to mind) my preference is for a closed hardware route. Yes, your preference might differ and that is good. Be happy.

You might have noticed a few video type ads on el reg's illustrious pages and that is fine for a mains powered device. But how are you going to feel when the stuff you wish to view on a mobile device has gross overload on the video front when the content you are after is merely a few hundreds of words?

Pleased that the video is eating into your paid for minutes perhaps?

Pleased that the extra energy drain is going to necessitate an urgent and important battery recharge?

And, as we all know, batteries only only good for a finite number of recharges yes?

You may wish your mobile device to cause battery rundown and shorten battery life, the Apple may not wish it to be so in general so who wins?

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because the iphone

is reknowned for its excellent battery life?

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Anonymous Coward

RE: because the iphone

Turning off WiFi mode helps.

...but even with it turned on all the time, mine has a battery life twice as long as the Motorola I owned before it!

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Flame

Hmmmm

"And, as we all know, batteries only only good for a finite number of recharges yes?"

And then you just -er- change the battery? Oh wait...

[I'm sorry, yours was a well worded, well reasoned post designed to avoid flames but I just couldn't resist]

Putting aside for the moment which route you prefer (open/closed), I don't think the arguments you use are entirely valid - There are any number of ways to avoid your scenario (something like Flashblock for Firefox - You need to click before the flash is loaded for example)

I don't doubt there are reasons which may or may not be valid but I don't believe they're the ones you've pointed out. I'd guess something like:

Preventing interpreted code radically reduces the risk of an attacker compromising the phone (same for no background tasks - Can't have a virus with no CPU power...). This makeds the phone more secure / reliable / less likely to be an IT headache.

Personally, I'd prefer the additional functionality and accept that if I'm stupid enough to download "Really_Cool_IM_Chat_Icon_Buddy_Pro" (tm) then I deserve whatever I get - But as you said each to their own :)

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Jobs Horns

All ostensibly valid points, except...

I seem to recall being able to deactivate Flash on pretty much every browser I've ever used, and on top of that if Apple actually made their batteries consumer-replaceable (or, for that matter, half decent) then it wouldn't be nearly so much of an issue.

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@AC

While I get your point, you're arguing that a closed hardware/software empire is better because it doesn't allow for animated ads...

Firstly, battery usage is far more relevant to the duration of screen usage than a few moving images on the screen; secondly, the Flash not being supported thing isn't really the same issue at all (well, certainly not for hardware).

Regardless, surely consumer choice (i.e., the choice of showing Flash adverts or not) should be more important than ruling with an iron fist?

I must be wrong, though, as the iPhone sells so well.

Maybe I'd have got one, but the forced iTunes tie-in (awful software) and the nerve to charge developers sent me to Android, which I think is a brilliant system (though maybe not quite as usefriendly).

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Paris Hilton

I kinda feel sorry for ... (part 2)

An elucidation for the blinkered?

In my earlier post I stated "closed hardware" and it really should be "more closed hardware than others".

For why you might ask and it would be a good call for justification for sure.

I suppose the market broadly splits into "more tightly closed" and "more loosely closed".

For why? Explain! (Did I hear you ask?)

Well, try to install any Windows 95 application on a modern machine. In most probability it will baulk hence we can safely conclude that there is no such thing as an open architecture for a variety of reasons so safely conclude the main options on hardware are more tightly closed and less tightly closed.

'nuff said?

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Fell sorry all you want

I'm sure others feel the same way about you too. :-)

You're rambling. A closed hardware interface (whatever that exactly means) consumes less power? Arguably true. Very interesting. In no way proven by what you write.

I really really feel sorry for you when you take Windows 95 as an example of the problems/advantages regarding closed/open hardware. Please show me what kind of hardware can cope with clearly very buggy software.

Have you ever heard of AS/400 and how that works? Or how source code following strict specifications (like C99) tends to work no matter what underlying hardware is used?

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@Feeling sorry, kinda

Lots of apps designed to run on W95 reject being installed on Windows NT (2K == NT5, XP == NT5.1, Vista == NT6, 7=NT6.1) because at the time, Windows NT did not support a big long list of APIs and such that were introduced with Windows 95. Most of these APIs were very useful, e.g. DirectX (NT4SP4 did not exist until much later, hell even NT4noSP didn't exist for another year), 32-to-16-bit thunks, because they allowed easier graphics or an easier transition from Windows 3.x. Lacking a crystal ball, the developers did not see that in the future Microsoft would add support for this stuff to the NT line in another 5-10 years...

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Gates Horns

RE: Feel sorry all you want

"I really really feel sorry for you when you take Windows 95 as an example of the problems/advantages regarding closed/open hardware. Please show me what kind of hardware can cope with clearly very buggy software."

I can't *show* you but I can *tell* you...

"Any hardware that runs any version of Windows"

Admittedly, there's no hardware I know of that can magically swallow the bugs.

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Anonymous Coward

N900

Actually there's a video on YouTube of Windows 95 running in a window on the Nokia N900 phone. God knows why anybody would want to do it, but just that you can shows how open its possible to be even on a phone.

The only reason Apple want to keep interpreted software off their phone is to keep a revenue stream coming in from the App Store. If you choose to feel privileged because you are locked in a pretty cage that's your choice. To the rest of us your still just in a cage.

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Not remotely an apple fan, but...

"The only reason Apple want to keep interpreted software off their phone is to keep a revenue stream coming in from the App Store. If you choose to feel privileged because you are locked in a pretty cage that's your choice. To the rest of us your still just in a cage."

That doesn't ring quite right. I keep reading that the App store is a loss leader for Apple. If true, then I can only think of one reason for the control-freakery on Apple's behalf: liability.

Control what gets on your device ruthlessly, and you control the number of stupid people win court cases aginst you because little Timmy is running an app you disaprove of.

If anyone has a better theory that fits the facts, I'm completely open to it...

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W95 apps on a modern machine

I have. Many of them work just fine.

Of my own apps, the majority will work from W95 through to Vista. I know fewer people with Windows7 so the level of feedback is obviously lower.

Of the one biggie that doesn't work, it is because I use a DLL to bit-bash IIC to the parallel port. You could pull that sort of crap in Win32. Under the NT kernel, you need more respect. Or at least a tool to authorise your application to directly access hardware. Which is what I have in place on XP. Don't know if it works under Vista or Win7, and frankly I couldn't give a crap because not only is teletext soon to be an anachronism, so too are parallel ports. The software is reaching the end of its life cycle.

I think you'll find the greater problem is trying to get applications using XP-like APIs working under older versions of Windows; but that isn't what you said. So excuse me if I don't understand the point you're trying to make...

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Paris Hilton

True and truer still yet ... ?

Tightly closed hardware:

very tightly identified bits with very little opportunity (or desire?) to swap out those bits

Loosely closed hardware

easily swappable, very little identification between those bits but snag it up and the whole might not work very well at all

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Good Start

Opera is a fine product but the people running the company have almost killed any chance at success. Glad to see the recent changes in management are doing some good. Hopefully they make it.

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Almost killed any chance at success?

Seriously, Opera Mini is the most-used mobile browser in the world today. Opera is not a small player here, and they're making plenty of money of the back of it.

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Why the fuss?

I can't see a basis for rejection of Opera Mini. I've used it before on other platforms and it makes an image of the page with hotspots and squirts it to the 'browser'. It's a different beast from Safari and not interpreting code. In technology terms it's not much different from using something like LogMeIn, and that's perfectly at home in the app store.

I would download it and have a look, but it always seemed a bit cumbersome on other platforms. I even preferred the native Blackberry browser to Opera Mini, although the page rendering was better on Opera (fonts were terrible, though). The interface always got in the way.

The truth is, it's not serious competition for Safari.

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Opera mini makes no sense on iPhone

...nor on Android, for that matter.

Opera Mini was originally built back in the days of Wap and low-powered devices which couldn't manage rendering and couldn't display anything other than bare HTML/Text.

These days, with the webkit-based browsers on Android and iPhone, and the CPU power available (600Mhz or above) and the GPU + screen quality, there is no reason whatsoever not to use the native browser on the device. Using my Nexus on 3G, I get a similar browsing experience to that of a full PC, even with a 3G/HSDPA connection. On wifi, it's mind-blowingly fast. Javascript renders/executes fine. The iPhone browsing experience is just as good.

So WTF would people run an inferior browser on their device? I think Opera is barking up the wrong tree here.

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Opera does indeed make sense on the iPhone

Opera MIni was launched worldwide in 2006, dear child.

Opera Mini inferior? It compresses data up to 90%, which makes page rendering much faster, and data costs much lower. Doesn't sound inferior to me.

Opera Mini makes sense on any phone because you will always have situations with poor network connections, and expensive data transfers.

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Paris Hilton

Does it matter?

Does it matter whether Apple accept it or not!?

Their timing leading upto the WMC will focus attention on Opera and its other range of products, what better way to get lots of free publicity and promotion than to play a "nice fluffy nowegians" vs "nasty apple fascists".

Whilst people are talking about this battle and raising awarenes of the new generation of "Opera" family of products, that they are about to release!?

Those without iphones may try mobile opera on their Nokia phones etc, or heaven forbid - maybe they will give Opera a run out on thier PC opposed to Firefox/IE

of course, apple could approve it and then what do opera do in future to whip up interest in a new set or product releases?

Paris, as she probably allows executable code by the back door!

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It does matter

Opera is trying to focus attention on the iPhone because they want to be on the iPhone.

This is not just a game to get attention for other products. They really want to be on the iPhone. They want to be on EVERYTHING.

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Dead Vulture

A no brainer

Of course Apple will approve it. Conceptually this is just server-side scripting (ish) or RDP (ish, again). Apple can't possibly object to someone running code on a remote server and serving up the results as a web page. They'd have to block the entire internet if they did.

Apple's motive is control over what executes on their hardware. That may be partly control freakery, but it is also security common sense. If you don't exercise *any* control over the execution of untrusted code you end up with the Windows eco-system. If you think multiple user-accounts and system administration are too heavy for a phone (and you may be right) you can't use "normal" OS-level security, so what's left?

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