Microsoft's Deepfish a better swimmer of mobile Web?

Zoom-in feature is centerpiece of software giant's answer to Web navigation woes among users of Windows Mobile handhelds.

Microsoft has launched the preview version of Deepfish, a Web-browsing technology for mobile devices that aims to mimic the experience of a full-fledged computer browser.

Deepfish, a downloadable application for smart phones running the Windows Mobile operating system, made its debut on Wednesday at the Emerging Technology Conference, nicknamed ETech, in San Diego. The program enables Web browsing that presents sites as they would appear on a desktop or laptop computer's browser rather than as the stripped-down versions that Web applications for wireless devices typically implement.

When users first navigate to a Web site in Deepfish, they see a thumbnail display of the whole page; as a result, it is likely illegible at first. Deepfish handles this with a "zoom box" feature that enables Windows Mobile users to move in on a selected portion of the page.

Microsoft Labs' blog described Deepfish's goal as "preserving the rich layout and full form of documents on mobile devices while providing novel ways of effectively navigating that content on small screens."

Alternatives to standard mobile Web browsing have been a hot topic among handset users desiring a more computerlike experience, and zoom-in features appear to be the tools with which companies are tackling the issue--at least for now.

Apple's iPhone, with its touch screen zoom capabilities, is arguably the best-known example. Meanwhile, a start-up called ZenZui is using Microsoft Labs-developed technology to create a "zoomable user interface" for mobile browsing.

The Deepfish download is now available in a limited private beta from Microsoft Live Labs. Microsoft considers it a prototype and has not announced any plans for offering a full or more widely available version.

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