Mobile broadband consumption shows no signs of slowing, but the way people access the mobile web could be changing. As more smartphone titles appear, use of mobile browsers could actually decrease as applications offer more useful bite-sized chunks of the web.
SkyFire is joining the WebKit bandwagon with the acquisition of kolbysoft, which makes the Android Steel browser. The company may be able to build a better mousetrap, but convincing Android users to download an additional browser will be a tough sell.
Mozilla’s new Firefox for Maemo is an impressive new mobile browser designed to provide a seamless experience for users across phones and PCs. But in an era built on smartphone apps and app stores, can a browser-based strategy win?
Mozilla is putting the finishing touches on a final version of Fennec, a version of its Firefox browser for mobile phones. As Mozilla tries to play catch-up in the world of mobile browsers, Android devices will play a key role.
Opera again showcased the growth of the mobile web with today’s installment of its monthly report of Opera Mini usage, but in a world where web-friendly smartphones are gaining traction its data may be getting stale. While there’s no doubt that Opera Mini has amassed a huge following, it’s unclear how instructive the company’s statistics are when it comes to overall mobile web usage. Read More about Do Opera Mini Stats Tell the Whole Mobile Web Story?
Much of the increased uptake on the wireless web is being credited to Apple’s iPhone, but Opera continues to make impressive gains with its Mini browser. In particular, users are increasingly tuning in to YouTube via Opera Mini.
The Norwegian developer said today that 29.1 million people used Opera Mini in July, marking an almost 10 percent rise over June figures and a 145 percent increase over July 2008. Page views increased more than 15 percent from the previous month, topping the 12 billion-mark, and more than doubling the number from July 2008. Predictably, data consumption through Mini in the most recent month increased at similar rates — to 187 million MB dowloaded. Read More about YouTube Gains Ground Along With Opera Mini
There are a lot of brave souls out there making mobile browsers, hoping to gain traction with the phone makers. But most of them are fighting a losing battle, for the mobile browser war is increasingly being fought between two camps — the Webkit-based browsers camp, which includes Safari on the iPhone, the Google Android Browser, the Palm browser and the Nokia browser; and the Opera camp.
Today Research in Motion (s RIMM) bought Touch Mobile, a Toronto-based company developing a Webkit-based mobile browser. Maybe it’s time for Microsoft to throw in the towel and officially get on the Webkit bandwagon as well. With the BlackBerry still the reigning champion of the smartphone business, at least in North America, the Webkit is about to get a big boost. Even Mozilla’s Firefox Mobile has an uphill climb ahead, though one can’t blame them for trying. Many mobile industry insiders believe that the browser is one of the biggest drivers of the mobile Internet boom.
Frankly, I can’t wait for my BlackBerry Tour to get some browser smarts and become more useful than its current role of just a solid messaging device.
Recession or not, smartphone sales are expected to remain strong for the foreseeable future, according to Infonetics Research, a market research company. The mobile handset makers had a flat 2008 in terms of revenues — some $156 billion worth of mobile phones were sold, essentially the same as 2007– and 2009 isn’t going to be pretty. Infonetics is forecasting an 8 percent drop in the total number of mobile phones sold, to 1.1 billion worldwide. But they predict that just like 2008, smartphones are going to buck the trend, growing on both a units sold and revenue basis.
This is good news for smartphone makers such as Research in Motion (s RIMM), Apple (s AAPL), Nokia (s NOK) and HTC. By comparison, companies like Motorola (s mot) are going to fall further behind, as they currently have no meaningful way to address the smartphone demand, which Infonetics is predicting will continue growing through 2013.
Symbian is still the top dog in the smartphone operating system market, followed by the BlackBerry, which regained its No. 2 spot after being overtaken by the surge in iPhone units in the third quarter of 2008. What’s driving demand for smartphones? Faster 3G networks. I think it’s the availability of the iPhone, which forced handset makers to embrace a more open web via standards-based web browsers and thus changed the mobile landscape forever.
The New York Times, earlier this week pointed out that browser wars had erupted again with Mozilla Corp’s Firefox, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Apple’s Safari looking to one-up each other. While that certainly is true, the browser wars on the desktop are not as interesting as the sudden explosion of interest in the browsers on mobile devices. With billions of devices sold every year there is a big demand for mobile browsers. The market is an emergent one, with no real winners.
WebKit-based browsers on S60 and Apple’s iPhone are strong contenders. In addition, Mozilla is looking to develop mobile browser for phones that are based on Linux OS, as CEO John Lilly said in a chat with us earlier this month. They are all fighting it out with Opera of Norway. I have Opera Mini on my Blackberry Curve and I love it.
However, all these players should watch out for Skyfire, a Mountain View, Calif.-based company that went into private beta earlier this year. The company is about to announce that it has raised $13 million in Series B funding from Lightspeed Ventures previously investors, Trinity Ventures and Matrix Partners. The company has raised $17.8 million thus far.