Rafe Needleman writes about Opera in his article aboutthe new generation of web browsers. He provides the wider perspective of how the action is moving to devices like cellphones.
The PC was where the action was in 1996, but it’s not where it is today. Today the most interesting technological developments are happening in game consoles, handhelds, and cell phones. That’s also where the money is: Some 400 million cell phones are sold worldwide each year, yet only 137 million PCs will be sold in 2003, according to Gartner. What’s more, only a miniscule percentage of the cellular-capable devices currently available (mobile phones and cellular PDAs) run a Microsoft operating system.
It’s true that, at the moment, a Web browser isn’t critical software for a cell phone — not the way it is for a PC. People talk on their phones, send text messages, and, increasingly, retrieve e-mail, play games, and take pictures. None of these applications requires a Web browser. Yet the browser opened the door to a new kind of commerce on PCs, and it could do the same on mobile devices.
The game here is also more interesting than it was on the PC, because of the way cell-phone software is distributed. Wireless carriers ship their phones with pre-installed software, for the most part, and support software can be downloaded only from their own cellular portals, which means that users are unlikely to seek out new browser programs for their handsets.