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Windows Mobile 6.1 and Opera Mini 4.1 unveiled

Microsoft and Opera have announced updates of their mobile offerings -- rejoicing and celebration will be unconfined, no matter what mobile OS you're on

Browsing the Internet on your phone used to be awful -- not only was it slow, but once you loaded a mobile Web page, it usually looked rubbish and was impossible to navigate. Thanks to the Great Wonder of Progress, things have dramatically changed -- many mobile browsers, such as the iPhone's, let you browse full Web pages as you would on your computer.

Progress, as you may have heard, doesn't stand still and yesterday Microsoft announced Windows 6.1. Released later this year, the new OS will feature -- as well as a few aesthetic changes -- a new version of Internet Explorer Mobile (pictured), which aims to deliver a full Web experience, similar to the hallowed iPhone. You'll be able to see a full overview of a Web site, for example, and zoom in on the bits you want to see properly.

Impressively, the new version of Internet Explorer Mobile will also support H.264, Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight, which will allow you to watch videos through the browser, including from sites such as YouTube and CNET.co.uk. It's a big leap from Microsoft's previous offerings, which haven't lived up to people's browsing expectations.

But it's not just Apple and Microsoft getting in on the mobile Web action. Opera -- which has been at it for some time -- today announced Opera Mini 4.1. While it's not as fully featured as the extremely impressive-looking Opera Mobile 9.5, Opera Mini is one of our absolute favourite apps.

For starters, the Opera Mini 4.1 beta is free and, with the latest updates, allows you to do some really cool things. It's now 50 per cent faster than before, it offers an auto-complete function for URLs (so you needn't type the whole address every time) and there's a very handy page search.

Impressively, Opera Mini 4.1 lets you download and upload your phone's content to sites such as Flickr without ever having to leave the browser. You can also save as many Web pages as you can fit on your phone's memory, so even when you don't have network coverage you can read your favourite sites.

For more information about Opera Mini 4.1, you can watch this video from Opera. If you'd like to try it out you can download it to your phone (as long as your handset is supported) for free by visiting mini.opera.com/beta using your phone's current browser. -Andrew Lim

Update: In response to a comment below, the first handsets to run Windows Mobile 6.1 will appear in the next few months, but will not feature support for H.264, Flash or Silverlight. You'll still be able to see a full overview of a Web site and zoom in on the bits you want to see, but it won't support sites such as YouTube.

Support for H.264, Flash and Silverlight will only be made available later in the year, when Windows Mobile 6.1 will come pre-installed on handsets with a new version of Internet Explorer Mobile. Microsoft has yet to announce whether or not Windows Mobile 6.1 users without the new version will be able to upgrade when it comes out.