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Hot on the heels of Opera's latest browser, Microsoft has updated its MSN Mobile service, and Yahoo! is to launch its intelligent client on Friday.

MSN Mobile is a portal site, to which you connect using your mobile browser. The normal quick links to weather, sports, email, and so on are supplemented by a mechanism which reformats web pages to suit your model of mobile phone - much the same as that offered by Google's .mobi service.

Yahoo! Go is a Java application which is downloaded onto the handset and offers a range of applications, as well as browsing reformatted websites. Using a Java client means Yahoo! Go can offer a more interesting user interface, based around a carousel of application icons, and interact with locally-stored files and address-book entries, Java APIs permitting.

Accessing locally-stored files means photographs can be uploaded to Flickr, and address-book integration opens up a host of possibilities - but Java applications can be slow to launch and the API implementations aren't always as standard as they ought to be.

Using Java means a better user experience, but for less people than the web-based approach adopted by Microsoft. Both companies know mobile browsing is a new market, and customers are only just getting enough confidence to leave their operator portal, let alone download a Java application to manage their browsing.

Yahoo!, Microsoft and Opera will all now be courting mobile phone manufacturers and network operators to get their software or portal address embedded in the handsets at manufacture, as for the moment that's the only way to get decent market share.

Early adopters can try MSN Mobile here, or download Yahoo Go 2.0 (from Friday). ®

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