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Opera beefs Android with 'open' widget platform

Norwegian-browser lovers storm Opera 11 extension hoard

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Opera has rolled out a widget platform for Google's Android operating system that supports the WAC specification, a multi-mobile-giant effort to create a common set of application APIs across handheld devices.

On Wednesday, the Norwegian browser maker introduced an alpha version of its Android widget runtime, hoping to jump start application development. The runtime offers APIs based on the WAC (Wholesale Applications Community) 1.0 specification, which was finalized in October. The WAC alliance includes many of the world's leading mobile operators and handset makers, including Vodafone, Verizon, China Mobile, Telenor, Telefonica, AT&T, and Samsung.

The alpha build runs on Android 2.1 or later, and its WAC APIs offer access to device hardware, including accelerometer, GPS, and camera. The build preinstalls a handful of widgets, and Opera provides a tutorial for developers.

You can grab the alpha build here, and Opera provides installation instructions here.

This week, Opera also announced that since the December 16 debut of Opera 11 – the first version of the company's destop browser to support extensions – users have downloaded over one million of them. That's one million extensions in four days, and the company says that developers are uploading 20 to 30 new extensions each day. The most popular extension includes, yes, an ad blocker: NoAds.

In addition to offering Firefox-like extensions, Opera 11 includes a new interface for better organizing tabs. The new approach is dubbed "tab stacking". You can stack tabs atop each other like sheets of paper on a desk, and when you mouse over a stack, you get a preview window showing you what's beneath. Clicking on a tab preview brings up the tab itself.

With Opera 11, you can also set plug-ins to load only when they're needed – with Opera claiming this can provide as much as a 30 per cent performance improvement – and both extensions and Opera Unite applications are now updated automatically through Opera's standard update mechanism. There's even a revamped address bar. And if you download Opera 11, you will win the respect of countless Reg readers across the globe. Until you say something stupid. ®

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