Apple rejects Opera Mini for Phone from iTunes App Store

“I have to confess, I haven’t paid much attention to Opera Software until recently. The Norwegian company has been an also-ran in the browser market for 13 years. On Friday, I had a chance to sit down with its co-founder and chief executive, Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner. I can’t say that I’m convinced that Opera is now poised to take the Web by storm, but his take on the browser world makes good sense and paints a picture of a future with browsers everywhere,” Saul Hansell reports for The New York Times.

“As a company, Opera focuses on areas where Internet Explorer and Firefox are hardly to be found. Some 80 percent of its business is browsers for mobile phones and other devices that aren’t computers. It has relatively few users in the United States. Its PC browser is particularly popular in central and eastern Europe. One reason is that the browser is optimized to run on old computers with slow connections,” Hansell reports.

Opera “offers Opera Mini, which takes advantage of a server computer, run by Opera, to handle the processing of Web pages. The server then sends a simplified version of each page to the phone in a compressed form,” Hansell reports. “Because that makes for much faster browsing no matter what the phone and network, Mr. von Tetzchner said, Opera Mini is increasingly popular on smartphones, even those that use the latest third-generation, or 3G, wireless data networks. ‘3G isn’t really that fast,’ he said. ‘We try to deal with the real world.'”

Hansell reports, “Mr. von Tetzchner said that Opera’s engineers have developed a version of Opera Mini that can run on an Apple iPhone, but Apple won’t let the company release it because it competes with Apple’s own Safari browser.”

Full article here.

Daring Fireball’s John Gruber opines, “I don’t see how this is surprising at all. One can argue about whether it’s a good policy for Apple not to allow third-party web browsers on the iPhone, but unlike other rejections, this one is not arbitrary. The iPhone SDK Agreement clearly forbids writing your own JavaScript interpreter. I’m not sure what Apple would do if someone tried to publish a third-party iPhone browser based on the system’s version of WebKit, but a browser based on a third-party engine is clearly not allowed.”

“It’s also possible that the version of Opera Mini they developed for the iPhone doesn’t even have a JavaScript engine, that it’s built with minimalist rendering in mind. If that’s the case, this would be another rejection of an app that doesn’t violate any of the written guidelines. It’s unclear whether that’s the case,” Gruber writes.

Full article here.

32 Comments

  1. Jobs is adamant about things that might degrade the overall iPhone / iPod Touch experience… And that criterion is hit squarely in the face by a browser using an external proxy server which pre-degrades the pages so the browser can be a bit quicker displaying them (implying various limitations).

    I personally don’t have the slightest doubt that that’s the prime concern besides the also valid JavaScript issue.

  2. The developer contract also prohibits using private APIs. WebKit is a private framework on iPhone OS, so they would reject any app that uses WebKit without doing so through the UIWebView class. If they use UIWebView, their behavior would be the same as MobileSafari, except that it couldn’t support multiple tabs, and therefore couldn’t support any link that is supposed to open in a new window. Those are ignored by the public UIWebView.

    In short, a third-party browser that follows the rules would suck bad. And a browser that sucks that bad would probably be rejected for sucking. Sorry, Opera. RIM and Nokia for you.

  3. This makes total sense to me.

    The iPhone is not a computer, it’s a phone. It’s main functionality is to phone, email, browse the web, and play media files. If the end user can swap out all those components with others or use multiple versions of them it would be a total mess and terribly confusing.

    Sure all the techie types that want to use it as everything from a server to a web camera are disappointed, but Apple has to think of their customers. This is not about competition, it’s about creating a good user experience.

  4. Look, its really simple… Apple built and paid for the sandbox. It invited people to come and play, and set out the rules. It’s not a democracy – it’s a business.

    Imagine, you are a carpet store. Down the block, is another carpet store. One day, to boost sales of your carpets, you sent your sales guy down to the other store to sell carpets for your store. Do you think the other store might complain? Or You own a DunkinDonuts, and next door is Starbucks. Starbucks sends over a perky cute college girl to pass out coupons for their products to folks waiting in line at your DunkinDonuts.

    Neither of these would ever happen.

  5. @ Sum Jung Gai

    That’s too bad – I’d really like to see what kind of alternative browser someone could create from the WebKit tools on the iPhone/iPod. Particularly a browser with more privacy features – I try to remember to clear my cookies regularly from Mobile Safari, but that’s hardly a substitute for the way I can lock things down in Firefox.

  6. I’ve tried Opera, the regular web browser. I found it to be extremely fast. However, it does not render certain pages properly. This is not probably their fault. Compared to Safari, however, Safari renders almost all of the pages that I visit. It’s a trade off for me. In this case, Safari had a better experience.

  7. @Jereme,

    “This is not about competition, it’s about creating a good user experience”

    BINGO. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” />

    In 5 years, I am sure you will be seeing a very different landscape. Call me back then. LOL

    Just a thought.
    en

  8. Apple’s Store, Apple’s OS, Apple’s Rules…
    Of you don’t like the terms then don’t play the game…

    Let’s say BMW owns the Largest BWM dealership in the EU, Nay, the World and they are selling BMWs and BMW accessories made by BMW. For the sake of argument say the dealership is selling more cars and accessories then anyone else in the market. And BMW has 98% to 99%.

    You (an American small business owner) own a company called CheapBWM Parts and Toys.. you create a unique line of BMW accessories and go to the dealership to have them sell your lines of BMW accessories and parts. They reject you based on your product lines compete with BMW’s lines of Parts and accessories.

    The EU would not only laugh at the complaint. They’d Help BMW sue you out of business.

  9. The comparison with BMW is a fallacy. The fallacy lies in comparing Apple to a BMW dealership that is forced to sell other cars.

    The iPhone is being developed as a computer platform. Apple both provides the platform and the programmes for it. It allows other companies to make programmes, also. But it forbids those programmes that conflict with its own.

    At present, this market is new and developing. The EU are unlikely to regulate it at this time. But the market may mature. Apple may sell a significant number of iPhones. At that point, the iPhone platform may be considered a computer rather than a telephone.

    If it is seen as a computer, then there are other analogies. The first is that Apple preventing competing programmes for its platform would be like Microsoft preventing competing word-processors to be used on Microsoft Windows. Or, perhaps, Apple preventing competing browsers to be used on the Mac.

    The iPhone would be less a BMW rather than the road on which the BMWs could drive. It might be awkward if BMW were to say that you could drive only BMWs on its roads, or those cars which were not in competition with BMW.

    When the market matures, if the Apple iPhone is seen as more of a computer platform, then the EU may require Apple to allow third-party software makers to release software for it. If, however, the iPhone was seen as merely one device amongst many and more as a phone then a computer, then the EU may choose not to regulate.

    de villiers

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