Opera Mini, the J2ME Web browser from Opera Software, is now available worldwide. Downloading the browser is free and SMS delivery is available for a $3 fee. Previously, the Norway-based company only permitted users from Nordic countries or Germany to download Opera Mini.
Opera Mini is different from Opera Mobile, the J2ME browser pre-installed on many high-end handsets. Opera Mini requires far less memory and processing power than Mobile because it relies on a proxy server to pre-process Web pages before sending them to the phone. Using a proxy has the bonus effect of saving you on bandwidth charges since Opera claims it reduces the amount of data sent to the phone by up to 80 percent.
Opera Mini may not be as pretty or full-featured as native browsers like Pocket IE, but that's not the point. Opera Mini is unique because it lets many users with low- or mid-range phones surf the Web for the first time. This is great news for content providers who want to offer some mobile content but don't want to invest in a WAP deck. Check out this review to see what it looks Opera Mini looks like in action.
How will Opera make money with this free browser? Presumably by selling customized versions of the software to operators and handset makers. A large Opera Mini user base may also prove useful in promoting Opera Platform, the company's new AJAX mobile web application framework. And, of course, it would be impossible to talk about Opera Software without mentioning that the company is frequently the subject of takeover rumors, with a list of potential suitors that includes Microsoft and Google. - Eli