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Nokia, Apple Develop Open-Source, Mobile Web Browser

By Keith Regan MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jun 13, 2005 10:16 AM PT

Leading smartphone maker Nokia today said it has worked with Apple to develop an open-source, mobile Web browser that uses many of the same elements found in Apple's Safari browser.

Nokia, Apple Develop Open-Source, Mobile Web Browser

Nokia said it has been working with the Macintosh computer maker to build a new browser for use in its highly popular Series 60 of hand-held devices and said the result would be a more robust Web-page viewing experience from mobile devices.

The new browser will use the same open-source components that are the foundation of the Safari product, including WebCore and JavaScriptCore.

Open-Source Approach

"Open source development enables close cooperation with the industry's best innovators, such as Apple," Nokia Chief Technology Officer Pertti Korhonen said in a statement. "Both Apple and Nokia share a commitment to Internet standards and the use of a common code. The unified and compatible browser base will offer a very compelling choice for Web content developers."

Although the rapid rise of smartphones has meant more users accessing Web pages from their mobile devices, the experience can be a frustrating one, since most traditional Web pages are meant to be viewed on a larger PC screen and are graphics-intensive, often leading to slow loading on hand-held devices.

For Apple, the announcement from Nokia comes just a week after the computer maker said it would put the software underpinning Safari into the public domain, giving developers access to the script as well as the software's development history as part of a move to open up various OS X software.

That move was seen as boosting the number of developers working to build Apple-friendly applications for the Web.

Sixty Minutes

The two companies said the new mobile browser would be available starting early next year on most Series 60 smartphones and said it would enable wireless carriers to offer more robust services to their customers.

The software is based on KHTML and KJS, which grew out of KDE's "Konqueror" open-source project and is at the heart of the Safari browser. Safari has managed to grab a modest share of the desktop browser market thanks largely to loyalty from Apple users.

Some analysts believe that because of the inherent limitations of small screens and keypads, technologies that work around extensive Web browsing -- such as push e-mail and searching via text messaging -- might prevail, but Nokia said that a recent survey of existing Series 60 smarphone customers found that more than 50 percent of all data traffic stemmed from Web browsing.

Nokia's Korhonen said leveraging the open-source development process would result in enhancement for "the entire Series 60 value chain, from manufacturers and operators to end-users," with everyone able to benefit from "flexible architecture, full Web compliance and a truly enjoyable user experience."

Going on Safari

Nokia also said it would continue to work with Apple and the rest of the open-source community to boost its mobile offerings, a move analysts say signals its intention to vigorously guard its perch atop the smartphone industry. Many observers believe the race to develop a truly mobile-friendly Web browser is wide open, and partnering with Nokia certainly gives Apple an inside track on a burgeoning market.

The announcement came as Nokia rolled out seven new smartphone models, part of what some believe might be as many as 40 new devices released this year alone.

Telecom analyst Jeff Kagan told MacNewsWorld that Nokia and its rivals -- Sony Ericsson also announced four new devices today -- are rolling out what will become an important new generation of mobile phones.

While market leadership can change hands and "fortunes [can be] won and lost," Kagan said, "the big news is the change in devices."

"Look at the kind of advanced products we are starting to see launched," he added. "They are exciting and multi-modal and should simplify our lives."

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