"Opera Mini" and "iPhone" are two words that fit uncomfortably together given the current state of the mobile industry, yet as Opera Software announced last week, it has combined them just the same.
Moreover, the maker of desktop and mobile browsers for multiple platforms has been demonstrating the iPhone-capable browser at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Opera has been secretive and stingy about it, too, forbidding journalists from taking photos and refusing to show the product outside of their convention floor booth.
In addition to raising flags about the program's stability, Opera's secretive treatment also raises questions. For instance, why would Opera go to the trouble of concocting an iPhone-ready browser when Apple routinely smacks down application submissions that compete with its native Safari browser? And even more significantly, why would Opera adapt Opera Mini, a browser meant to run on Java phones, instead of Opera Mobile, the full-fledged Web browser designed for capable smartphones like high-end Nokias and the HTC Touch?
The choice to run with Mini is an attempt to dive through a loophole in Apple's SDK, Opera told CNET. Opera Mini is backed by a proxy server, which means that the browser gets compressed versions of Web pages via Opera's servers. In more technical terms, there's no code being executed or scripts bring run in Opera Mini. Every Web page request is projected, in a sense, through Opera's filter, instead of being actively generated from and delivered to the browser the way it is on Safari, which does run its own Web code.
Although Opera might have landed on a workaround, we're not wasting too many brain cells wondering if Opera's iPhone experiment will actually lead to an Apple-vetted app. Last we heard, Opera had not submitted the app for iTunes consideration. Where we stand, Opera Mini on iPhone is a show piece designed to shine a spotlight on Apple's fierce stance toward competition, and to push the envelope.
Not that we'd mind some choice in the browser sphere. Opera impressed us in 2009 with a slick beta redo of both Opera Mini and Opera Mobile browsers, for Java phones (works on some Android and BlackBerry models) and Symbian and Windows smartphones, respectively. We wouldn't mind trying either of Opera's browsers--with their nearly identical interfaces--on iPhone.