Prelude to the Opera Mobile vs NetFront article - profound differences between the two new Web browsers

I’m constantly receiving requests and questions for/about my forthcoming Opera Mobile review and comparison. I won’t publish it before I get the final, full version of NetFront 3.3 (I want to compare the two browsers), which will, hopefully, happen today, (BIG!) thanks to AximSite forum member axim_wannabe. That is, I’ll publish the review, hopefully, on the weekend. (Dunno yet – I’ll travel the entire weekend, but, hopefully, will have the chance to work on and, then, publish it.)

In the meantime, in addition to the Opera Mobile- and NetFront-related posts in this blog, I recommend the following threads for additional information (I’ve posted a lot of tricks and tips in there I haven’t reposted in the blog):

AximSite – 1
AximSite – 2
PPCT – 1
PPCT – 2
Opera’s own support thread – in there, there’s even a highly useful post (see this and, what is even more important, this post) on importing your Internet Explorer favorites into Opera Mobile.

Note that most complaints about Opera Mobile come from Dell Axim x50v users running WM2003SE. Unfortunately, it seems some new browsers just aren’t (fully) compatible with the device. For example, a lot of Minimo builds/versions, which, otherwise, run on other models without (major) problems, don’t even start on the x50v. That is, users that call Opera Mobile “useless†most probably have a WM2003SE x50v. And, again, my responses are always worth checking out in the above threads.

Incidentally, while I was swimming yesterday (two hours of really “dischargingâ€, fast, all-forces-used swimming and a quick sauna session after that to warm up), I thought about how I should explain the difference between Opera Mobile and NetFront without sounding like an incorrigible engineer that only knows to use words 'DST bugs', 'cache bugs', 'dynamic HTML forms', ‘HTTP protocol’, ‘HTML’, ‘JavaScript compliance’ and the like. Then, a nice analogy occurred to me that I thought I’d share with you before publishing the Opera vs. NetFront one-on-one comparison.

Going back some 15 years in time when home computers not necessarily meant PC’s only and people preferred buying “barebone†PC’s and, later, when they had the money for extra cards, expanding their own PC’s by hand (by adding new cards/peripherals):

Opera Mobile is like a 486(DX) IBM PC motherboard + CPU with a CGA card (the most basic video card you can think of, in addition to Hercules and MDA) and a 360 kbyte 5 1/4 floppy drive and, of course, the built-in beeper/buzzer only – that is, an (at that time) excellent motherboard + CPU combo with very bad, next-to-useless peripherals.

NetFront 3.3 is like a Commodore 64 - a (compared to that of Opera) not very capable/ HTML/JavaScript engine (the 1 MHz 6510 CPU) with a lot of niceties around (the SID, the CIA, the VIC chips). At first, or to a casual viewer not knowing what the quality of the engine is about, it has far better graphics, far better sound/music, far better games controllability (built-in joystick ports), far more games to run than the barebone, CGA, floppy-only 486 DX.

This is how NetFront compares to Opera Mobile – NetFront has a much-much better user interface with much-much broader capabilities, while Opera, while having a much more standards-compliant (meaning it’s able to parse/render much more pages than NetFront), has a GUI that doesn’t even let the user configure for example the amount of scrolling or the place of the cache in the file system otherwise configurable in the Opera config files.

You can’t, however, really extend a Commodore 64 – not even add-on peripherals like SuperCPU will be of real help. It’s much easier to extend a PC. If you get a hard disk and a decent video card, your 486DX-based PC will be much better than a Commodore 64 – that is, the advantages of the engine (superior parsing/rendering speed, less memory usage) will be more emphasized with a decent GUI.

Furthermore, to write a brand new, decent HTML and/or JavaScript parsing engine from the ground up takes much-much more time/effort than just adding some new configuration dialogs and context menu items. Should I mention Pocket Internet Explorer (also known as Internet Explorer Mobile starting with WM5) has been developed for some nine years and is (still) clearly inferior, engine-wise (it’s just plain slow and incompatible with a lot of advanced HTML/JavaScript constructs), to any altrenative Pocket PC Web browser.

What do I mean by all this? If the people at Opera will have the necessary time to spice up their GUI to, for example, create decent configuration dialogs and also add decent context menus (image saving, link copying to the clipboard, in-page text search, screen dragging with stylus, hardware button configuration as with MultiIE or PIEPlus (this is painfully missing from the latest NetFront too!) etc.) an even manage to interface the Macromedia/Adobe Flash plug-in for great (definitely better than that of NetFront – the latter has a worse Flash engine than that of the Adobe plug-in) Flash support or to the CrEme Java plug-in for Java Applet support, then, Opera Mobile will be the best. In the long run, that is.

BTW, I’m in no way an Opera fanboy – I think my first, very bad and smashing review of the first Opera Mobile beta certainly shows this :) I’ve received a LOT of negative comments for that review. I stand by what I said in there even now – beta1 was close to useless on WM2003(SE) devices. Now, it’s just now that I started to like their current product very much because, as a TCP/IP & HTTP & JavaScript & HTML & co. guru, based on my thorough compliance tests, I know what most people don't - Opera has a freaking good, unmatched HTTP/HTML/JavaScript engine, which is, then, covered by a not very capable, really immature GUI.

You can safely install it on the 4150 - it will work.

BTW, are you sure you downloaded the beta, and not the (latest) trial? Opera Mobile is no longer in beta stage - the betas no longer function.

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