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Opera has released an Opera Mini 5 beta for Google's Android platform.

The Android incarnation of the Norwegian outfit's low-bandwidth mobile browser can be downloaded directly from the company's website or from Google's Android market. Now used by more than 50 million people worldwide - according to the company - Opera Mini taps into proxy servers that compress webpages before they're sent down to the phone.

Opera Mini 5 is now available for Java-enabled phones, BlackBerries and Windows Mobile as well as Android. It includes tabbed browsing, speed dial, a password manager and a bookmarks interface.

The company also offers the beefier Opera Mobile browser - which bypasses those proxy servers - for Symbian and Windows Mobile phones.

Last month, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Opera demoed a version of Opera Mini for the Jesus Phone. But it has yet to actually submit the browser to the iPhone App Store.

At the moment, the Store does not offer third-party browsers that use anything other than the Apple Safari WebKit rendering engine, and the Apple SDK forbids applications that interpret their own code. But Opera believes Apple will approve the app because it doesn't actually interpret code. Code is interpreted on Opera's proxy server before being sent to the phone.

Dag Olav Norem, vice president of products for Opera, confirms with The Reg that the company has not yet submitted the browser to the App Store, but he says: "We're getting there." Opera will continue to demo the browser at a pair of tradeshows in the States this month.

The Android Opera Mini uses a combination of Google's Java-like Dalvik virtual machine and its native code development kit (NDK). This means it will only work with Android 1.5 or later.

At this point, Norem says Opera has no concrete plans to port Opera Mobile to Android because Google has not said that certain required tools in the NDK will remain unchanged with future versions. "Opera Mobile goes a bit deeper and requires more APIs," Norem says. "It depends on things that Google has not guaranteed will remain stable in the future ... Because of that, it's a bit tricky to release Opera Mobile. We have not made a decision whether to do so or not." ®

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