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Opera Software's browser-boosting Turbo technology has been released for limited testing, with a view to boosting the web experience on netbooks and mobile phones.

The company claimed Opera Turbo could improve web surfing speeds by a factor of four. Opera Turbo does this by sending pages to the company's own servers first, which compress pages by up to 80 per cent before they hit your browser.

Speed comes at a price, though. Opera has warned image resolution may appear "considerably lower" as a result of the compression. Also, it looks like Opera Turbo will only be for Opera browsers.

Opera Turbo is being targeted at people stuck with slow networks, with the company referencing network speeds of 100Kbps when discussing Opera Turbo.

In the era of 3G and smart phones, when we're supposed to be gulping down content in megabits per second, that might sound dated and laughably quaint. But it's not.

That's about the speed you can expect on a mobile phone network, a busy WiFi network or USB data connection, according to Opera. Sites, meanwhile, are packing in more and more moving bits using AJAX.

Opera chief executive Jon von Tetzchner told us Opera Turbo would be "great" for netbooks, seen by the Linux and open-source community as the place where online services meets local applications. If the online experience sucks, then so will the netbook experience.

On mobile phones, meanwhile, Microsoft and Adobe Systems are both talking in terms of you building applications that deliver even "richer" content content to mobiles. That means even more AJAX, plus video, audio, and data.

If you don't think this is already an issue, then look at Microsoft's planned Silverlight for Mobile, expected this quarter. Microsoft's said it will remove capabilities found in Silverlight for the desktop when it comes to mobile because of the poor experience you'd get on devices thanks to network latency and limited processing. A lead contender to get cut is Silverlight's Deep Zoom.

Mobile is a particularly interesting field to Opera, given that its Opera Mini browser runs on a broad range of networks and devices worldwide. The industry hype might focus on smartphones, but there's a huge install base of bricks and low-feature phones snootily dismissed as "mass market" by fashionisats and those on the bleeding edge.

Opera is also targeting users in developing markets with Opera Turbo, markets outside the broadband-catchment areas of the US, western Europe, and Asia-Pacific.

"We are putting Turbo together for all these users that don't have a fast connection all the time," von Tetzchner told The Reg.

"There are more and more people buying netbooks and they only have a fast connection some of the time, and you have people who have mobile in their cars. Then you go to other markets like India, and the normal connection speed is 100Kb," von Tetzchner said.

Opera has promised it won't subvert the web in its drive for speed. Microsoft is, of course, the poster child for making things faster at the expense of web standards and openness - see the history of Internet Explorer and Microsoft's bitter experience with Java last decade. Opera has claimed Opera Turbo would display sites' layout and text as intended, with dynamic technologies like AJAX and Adobe's Flash supported.

Feedback from this test release will be used to help Opera decide how to move forward with Opera Turbo, the company said.

You can download Opera Turbo here. ®

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