Opera Browser To Be Pre-Installed On New Nokia Handsets

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Under a deal with Microsoft, the Opera Mini browser will be installed on all new low- and mid-market Nokia handsets

Opera Software is to take over browser development for Nokia low- and mid-market mobile phones under a new licensing deal with Microsoft, as the software maker looks to outsource tasks previously handled by Nokia staff.

Under the arrangement, announced late last week, Nokia feature phones and the Asha product line will use the Opera Mini browser, Opera said. The deal could put Opera onto an additional 100 million handsets per year, according to an unnamed source cited by Reuters.

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Staff cuts

Microsoft completed its £4.5 billion takeover of Nokia’s handset business in April, and is looking to halve the size of the mobile phone maker as it integrates the two companies, consolidating the Smart Devices and Mobile Phones business units into a single handset business unit. As part of this plan, Microsoft has announced 18,000 job cuts over the next year, including 12,500 at Nokia.

The arrangement, which Opera described as an outsourcing deal, will help Microsoft’s efforts to pare down Nokia’s developer staff.

“We are basically taking over the browser building department in Nokia,” said Opera chief executive Lars Boilesen in a statement. “This means that Opera Mini will become the default browser for Microsoft’s feature phone product lines and the Asha phones product lines.”

The deal covers new phones using the Series 30+, Series 40 and Asha software platforms, and Opera said it will also encourage existing users of these platforms to switch to Opera Mini from the Xpress browser.

Boilesen also said Opera is targeting Nokia’s Windows Phone-based handsets, which are not currently part of the deal.

“The only thing we are not doing so far is delivering browsers to their Windows Smartphone platform,” he told Reuters. “I’m confident that if this deal becomes a success we will deliver browsers to their Windows phones as well.”

‘Affordable devices’

Opera Mini is already installed on 250 million handsets, primarily in developing markets. The software requests pages via Opera’s back-end servers, which compress the pages as much as 90 percent.

At the time of the acquisition, Microsoft said it is planning to target the “affordable mobile devices” market, which it estimated at $50bn (£30bn) per year.

Microsoft said the deal is intended to provide continuity of service for users as Nokia’s Xpress browser is phased out.

As part of its integration plans, Microsoft said it is planning to phase out engineering work in Nokia’s Oulu, Finland research and development facility, which employs 500 staff, as well as in the company’s Beijing and San Diego offices, which are to shift to supporting roles. Nokia’s Espoo, Finland and Lund, Sweden offices are to continue to carry out software development work, Microsoft has said.

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