Nokia Asha 501

Opera signs deal to become default browser on Microsoft's Nokia feature phones

Opera will become the default browser on some Microsoft phones, Opera Software and Microsoft announced Thursday.

No, Microsoft isn’t dropping Internet Explorer as its mobile browser. Instead, Opera will power the web experience for the aging Asha phone line-up, as well as other feature phones Nokia brought to Microsoft as part of its $7 billion acquisition deal. It's a segment of the market that doesn’t compete with the Lumia smartphones powered by Windows Phone. Specifically, the licensing agreement applies to mobile phones based on the Series 30+, Series 40 and Asha software platforms, the companies said.

Although Opera has virtually disappeared from desktop environments, it's still a relevant force in the mobile space.  According to NetApplications, Opera Mini still holds a 8.43 percent market share, trailing Chrome, the native Android browser that ships with older Android versions, and finally the market-leading Safari browser for iOS. Users who have Opera Xpress installed on their phones will be asked to upgrade, and new phones will include the Opera Mini software.

“We continue to sell and support classic first and feature phones as well as the Asha range, which have performed well with millions of people who want new mobile experiences at lower price points,” said Rich Bernardo, head of legacy business, phones, at Microsoft. “The agreement with Opera will enable us to provide continuity of service as we transition from Xpress Browser to Opera Mini.”

Opera Mini was one of the first browsers to include a technology that can compress Web pages and images, making them quicker to download and helping to prevent users from exceeding their smartphone data caps. Other browsers, such as Chrome for Android, have also begun adding similar features, making Opera Mini's technology less distinctive. 

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