Yesterday an update rolled out from the folks at Opera, bringing the highly popular Wii Internet channel into the 20th century with full support for USB keyboards, widgets, and link sharing. Normally this news would not excite me, but as a Wii owner, having struggled to actually type an e-mail, or enter anything more than a URL or login using a Wiimote on the onscreen keyboard, believe me when I say this is big.
In addition to the keyboard news, Opera is now supporting two very interesting Web features. The first is a new "Widget View" mode, letting users take advantage of Opera's collection of Web widgets that you can download straight to your system. The catalog is mostly the same for Wii users as the desktop version of the Opera, and includes useful things like Internet radio, instant messaging, and eye-optimized news feeds. There are also a slew of games, opening up your system to an extra layer of free entertainment.
The other new feature is link sharing, which lets you take any URL and share it with other Wii users via their friend code, or to anyone else via their e-mail address. This works with any page you're currently on, or those stored in your favorites folder (which has also been upped from 48 to 56 slots). It's essentially giving the Wii its own, closed social network. Opera and Nintendo are calling it "send-to-a-friend," but I think a more apt name is "Wii.licio.us."
With this move the Wii is actually getting closer to a desktop PC than you'd think. Until now, Sony's PlayStation3 has had the edge on the Wii with its multiwindow browsing experience and the option to install Yellow Dog Linux (with Firefox) on top of the system's OS. It's also getting a leg up on the iPhone when it comes to business use from a consumer-oriented tool. Both share an often maddening proprietary keyboard input system, that, up until now, you were stuck waving your arm around to operate. And as we recently noted, the iPhone is not ready for business.
The update is available for free to anyone who's already got the Wii browser. For new Wii users, you can pick it up for 500 Wii points.