Browser groupies and serious Webheads have sung the praises of Opera for two years--provided they had a PC or Unix machine on which to run the small, speedy browser. Mac users will soon be able to judge for themselves, with two ways to put the browser to use.
Opera (www.opera.com) plans to release its first Mac browser this year, probably within the next month or two. The Norwegian company has also inked deals to become the default browser on handheld devices being developed by Psion and Ericsson.
Opera seems like a natural fit for handhelds. At a time when browsers such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer average 5MB, Opera weighs in at only 2MB, taking up less space on a machine's hard drive. Besides its trim size, Opera also boasts the most rigorous compliance with Web standards among browsers. It not only supports Web standbys like CSS, HTML 4.0 and XML, but also implements full support for Wireless Markup Language, the markup component of Wireless Application Protocol (WAP). WAP is a set of technical specifications aimed at letting handheld users tap into a broad, universal set of networks and services. Opera recognizes and complies with the standard, thus letting its users do things like access WAP-enabled wireless networks.
That standards support should come in handy with the Eriksson and Psion devices. Those two companies are part of the Symbian consortium, which is developing a standard mobile wireless operating system. Since the Opera browser will be a part of the handhelds shipped by Eriksson and Psion --and since it supports a protocol many wireless networks use--Opera is poised to become a key player in the growing market for mobile computing software.
Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner says the company's focus isn't on dominating any specific browser market, but rather, on making a browser. "Our focus is always the browser," he says. "And our goal is to make surfing the Web on any device more efficient, more fun and more productive."