Opera, a big browser producer for the desktop space, is kicking it up a notch in its new attempt at mobile browsing with their mobile browsing experience known as Opera Ice. They will be attempting to bring a browser to the mobile marketplace that they hope will rival Google and Apple’s mobile browsers Chrome and Safari. They will be basing this new browser on the WebKit standard and not Presto which will allow for good scalability and a native feel on either a phone or tablet. This choice will also allow more flexibility and expansion. They have set up the browser by taking a lot of visual cues from some of the top operating systems on the market; they have a tabbed search function, which allows you to search for webpages and add them to your “homescreen” layout, which looks a lot like Chrome’s tab navigation. They have a swipe feature that reminds me of the Google app on iOS which allows you to swipe between pages and has a fading effect. Finally, their front page layout, or “homescreen”, is made up of thumbnails which look much like Windows Metro UI. They are touting the gesture based UI and it does look really nice and as long as they can keep it fluid it could be a great alternative browsing choice for mobile operating systems. The main thing that Opera is going to try and accomplish with this app will be to become the defacto choice for mobile browsing by bringing options and customizations not seen by other developers.
In the video below, first posted by Pocketlint, shows the narrator speaking about using some new styles of navigation. Instead of using tabs or other navigation tools Ice will utilize a home page style that incorporates thumbnail style jump icons and expanded navigation through a gesture based UI. The real boon to this will be Opera’s ability to develop for Android and allow unique customizations that other, more locked down operating systems, may not. I could imagine being able to set up custom skins, gestures and “homescreen” layouts. What Ice does is it sets up webpages so they feel like native applications. Since all of the navigation is done by gestures the webpages fill the entire screen and make for a more focused approach to web surfing.
My guess is, Opera may choose to add its own web store for the Android version and allow specialized apps for download into the browser and could even include extensions. This is something that hasn’t been done yet and could really separate Opera Ice from the rest of the contenders. Obviously this would only work as a third-party download much like Amazon’s or Samsung’s Android store. Chrome and Android’s native browser are fast and have some great features; and those who use the Chrome desktop client may already be heavily invested in the Google architecture. But, for those that are looking for a new browsing experience, may very well take a hard look at Ice when it becomes available. No word as to when this may be released and Ice is in its early stages of development but if the final product can work as they hope it could be a huge hit for Opera.