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Opera Mini hits iTunes, awaits Apple verdict

Mobile browsing's never been so interesting

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Opera has finally submitted its browser to the iTunes store, daring Apple to reject it, while Firefox has called it a day for the Windows Mobile version of Fennec.

Opera has been publicly taunting Apple for a while now, showing off Opera Mini on an iPhone while it ironed out the bugs in an application that few believe Apple will allow to be sold. Similarly Microsoft's adoption of that same level of control has killed off the Windows Mobile version of Fennec - the mobile version of Firefox can't exist within the limitations on the forthcoming Windows Phone 7 Series.

Apple has resolutely refused to allow alternative browsers on the iPhone - arguing that offering multiple ways of doing the same thing just confuses users without adding value. Applications can enhance Apple's own webkit-based browser, but can't replace the underlying engine in the way that Opera Mini does.

That's a shame for those who'd like the faster browsing Opera Mini's server-based rendering enables, not to mention background tabs that actually load while they're in the background.

The Apple SDK agreement spells out that applications can't interpret code for themselves - so no Flash, Java, or similar. Opera argues that because their Mini browser relies on servers to do all the interpretation, the client is simply rendering streamed content and therefore falls within the rules. But those rules also state that Apple can reject anything it likes, without having to explain itself to tiresome Norwegians or anyone else.

It's an attitude that Microsoft wants to replicate with Windows Phone 7 Series, which is what has the Firefox chaps so depressed. Microsoft's new mobile platform won't allow native applications, which limits Fennec (as the mobile version of Firefox is known) to the existing Windows Mobile platform - which we all know is a dead man walking, despite Microsoft's assertions to the contrary.

Fennec will continue - there are still many mobile platforms which don't enforce such dictatorial regimes - but Apple has shown the commercial advantages of being the one in charge so it's only to be expected that many will follow its lead. ®

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