October 22, 2008 9:00 am

Symbian Smartphone Show: browser battles go mobile

LONDON, England – The Internet browser wars have been escalating of late, with Google’s Chrome mixing it up with Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer on the desktop front. But things are becoming just as heated when it comes to the mobile Internet, with Mozilla and Opera releasing new browsers not just in the same week, but on the same day.

Yesterday saw the release of both Firefox Mobile Alpha, and Opera Mobile 9.5 beta for some Symbian phones. Firefox Mobile, codenamed Fennec, is in Alpha at the moment and available only for Nokia N800 and N810 tablets, but Opera already leads the market in third party mobile browsers with Opera Mini and Opera Mobile.

The browsers’ new battleground is widgets, something Nokia’s been working on for some time. Opera’s new widgets include AccuWeather and perhaps more
crucially the micro-blogging platform Twitter. Mozilla meanwhile is
aiming for integration with desktop features, including Geode, the new
geo-location plugin for Firefox 3.1, and the familiar Awesome Bar.

It’s early days for Fennec of course, but given Mozilla’s domination of
the open source desktop browser scene, there’s every possibility that
it could come to rule the mobile roost too.

Sometimes the arrival of big name browsers is enough to spur users into action, hunting out alternatives. Will that happen here? With such big names involved, and perhaps with the frustration of users that Fennec is still only and alpha release could do wonders for Opera. Most importantly though, it shows the spotlight is heading towards the mobile browser and for users that can only be a good thing.

You can have a play with Fennec on a PC to see how it’ll work here. Personally I’m going to stick with the Nokia Browser until Firefox hits beta. I’m keen to try out new browsers but I’ve never been a big fan of Opera (as good as I know it is). How about you?

Photo by tarotastic

UPDATE: As Gerrymoth rightly says, 9.5 isn’t available for S60, yet. The yet because it won’t be long before UIQ, S60 and all the rest all become one. Symbian Foundation anyone?