WW-131 -- Web Browser Wars on Japanese Cellphones?

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J@pan Inc presents the Wireless Watch Newsletter:

W I R E L E S S W A T C H

Commentary on Japan's Wireless World
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Wireless Watch Newsletter
Issue No. 131
Thursday, June 10, 2004
TOKYO

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CONTENTS

@@ Viewpoint: Web Browser Wars on Japanese Cellphones?

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@@ Viewpoint: Web Browser Wars on Japanese Cellphones?

We all know that mobile phone browsers have limited functionality. Large
images and fancy site features like frames cannot be viewed, making it
impossible for users to browse certain Web pages.

Norwegian browser developer Opera Software has recently launched their
first mobile product for the Kyocera AH-K3001V phone, from PHS provider
DDI Pocket. By pushing an Opera branded soft-key on the phone, the user
can start surfing Web pages. Opera's small-screen rendering technology
reformats Web pages to fit 2.2-inch VGA screens.

The Opera browser providers three viewing modes. I-mode sites can be
best viewed in a keitai-mode that does not support frames, while HTML
Web pages with frames can be browsed in full-screen mode. As the screen
is only 240 pixels wide, viewing the Web pages requires extensive
horizontal scrolling. The best user experience is in small-screen mode;
images are rendered to horizontally fit the screen and long sentences
can be read easily without the need to scroll. The viewing modes can be
switched by simply pushing the Opera button.

Opera's Japanese competitor, Access, announced this week a similar
product based on its family of Netfront micro-browsers for Qualcomm's
Brew platform.

Access developed the browser for DoCoMo's i-mode in both the Japanese
and European markets. Access also deploys a smart technology that renders
Web pages to fit the screen width, eliminating the need for horizontal
scrolling. The new Netfront browser also includes 'rapid rendering,'
which progressively renders and displays Web page content in a way that
accelerates the presentation. Page download speeds are improved up to
six times in comparison to earlier versions of the Netfront browser.

The key to success is to have the browser pre-installed on the phone,
which is usually the case in Japan. In Europe, however, special browsers
must be downloaded and installed. This is a difficult procedure for
most Europeans with high-end phones, as we duly noted while
watching folks in Europe struggle mightily with their Symbian phones.

Japan might be a challenging battlefield for Opera. Vodafone and KDDI
use Openwave, while Access is a key partner for DoCoMo. The relationship
between Opera and Kyocera is not limited to Japan -- both companies have
recently announced an Opera phone for the Chinese market.

The European browser market is still wide open. Carriers are changing
their handset development strategies by dictating the functional
requirements for the phones. This offers new opportunities for Opera
and Access to embed their browsers, and the Japanese experience could
prove to be very helpful.

-- Arjen van Blokland

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STAFF
Written by Arjen van Blokland; Edited by Roland Kelts
(editors@japaninc.com)

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