Apple approves Opera browser for iPhone's App Store

Norwegian maker says free browser will be available within 24 hours

Opera Mini on the iPhone displays 'tabs' of already-opened pages. Opera Software announced today that Apple had approved its Opera Mini browser for the iPhone and iPod touch, and that the software would be available for download within the next 24 hours.

"We are delighted to offer iPhone and iPod touch users a great browsing experience with the Opera Mini App," said Lars Boilesen, CEO of Opera, in a statement late Monday. "This app is another step toward Opera's goal of bringing the Web to more people in more places."

As of 8 p.m. Eastern time Monday, Opera Mini had not yet appeared in Apple's App Store. When it is, the app will be available free of charge.

Opera submitted the mobile browser to the App Store three weeks ago, and at the time was confident that Apple would approve the submission. "It's not violating the iPhone SDK, and Apple has approved other browsers. I think it would be strange if Apple rejected it," said Jon Von Tetzchner, Opera co-founder and former CEO.

A month before that, when Opera previewed the browser to partners and reporters, Christen Krogh, the company's chief development officer, had dismissed concerns that Apple would deny admittance to the App Store.

Some industry watchers had wondered whether Opera would turn to European Union antitrust regulators if Apple denied Opera Mini a spot in the App Store.

That speculation had stemmed from the Norwegian browser maker's complaint to antitrust officials in late 2007, when it said that Microsoft 's bundling of its Internet Explorer browser with Windows stifled competition . After an investigation by authorities, Microsoft began delivering a browser choice screen to European Windows users in March.

Today, Opera claimed that its Mini browser was six times faster than Safari on the iPhone, the speed boost courtesy of the compression that Opera conducts on all data bound for the browser.

According to Opera, its servers compress Web page data by as much as 90% before sending it to the user. The increase should be especially noticeable to owners of older iPhones that rely on an EDGE, rather than a 3G, data connection, said Opera.

"That also saves data usage if you're roaming," a company spokeswoman said today.

Last month, Von Tetzchner hinted that Opera would develop an iPad -specific version of Opera Mini if Apple approved the browser for the iPhone and iPod Touch. "It would run very well on the iPad," he said then.

Opera spokeswoman's declined to confirm that Opera would definitely move forward on that plan, or if so, when it would do so. "But we want Opera on as many Internet [capable] devices as possible," she said today.

Opera Mini is already available for download to the BlackBerry, and in beta versions to Android and Windows Mobile smartphones.

Apple did not reply to a request for confirmation that is had approved Opera Mini for the App Store.

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Gregg Keizer

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