Sometimes a browser should just get out of your way.Opera 10.50 also includes a sleek and refined new design, as well as private browsing, where Opera hides all traces of sites you visit.In the Europe, Opera Software is reporting a dramatic uptick in browser downloads. The company said more than half the European downloads of Opera 10.50 have come directly from Microsoft’s choice screen since early March.
Microsoft used to configure Internet Explorer as the default browser for its Windows operating system, but under pressure from the European Commission, it agreed last October to test-market measures to give Europeans an option to download and install competing browsers like Opera, Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox.
European Windows users are getting a choice through a browser screen that is displayed automatically and lets users make any browser the default. Users can even turn Microsoft’s Internet Explorer off, although Microsoft has said there’s no need to do that to make another browser the default.
“This confirms that when users are given a real choice on how they choose the most important piece of software on their computer, the browser, they will try out alternatives,” said Håkon Wium Lie, CTO of Opera Software. “A multitude of browsers will make the web more standardized and easier to browse.”
According to Opera, the increase represents more than a doubling from the normal download numbers — even only after a short period with the choice screen. The choice screen rollout will continue well into May for existing Windows computers and for five more years on new Windows installations, giving Opera reason to believe it will continue to see more downloads.
Of course, Internet Explorer remains dominant with 61.58 percent of the browser market. But Opera is nevertheless rejoicing over the browser screen and has rolled out Opera 10.50, which it bills as the fastest-ever browser for Windows computers. Opera 10.50 also has a new design and private browsing.
Opera is also pressing to compete in mobile browsers. Opera released final versions of its Opera Mini 5 and Opera Mobile 10 earlier this week. With the Mobile 10 release, Opera is focusing on features like speed dial, password management, bookmark synchronization, and tabbed browsing.
Opera’s mobile browsers are designed to speed up the mobile search experience, and Opera Mini’s compression technology promises to reduce the amount of data downloaded by up to 90 percent, which drives down costs on pay-per-megabyte plans or while roaming.
As Opera moves to compete more fiercely in the mobile market, the Norwegian company offered a preview of announcements planned for the CTIA Wireless show next week. Opera said it will roll out the latest Opera Mini 5 product running on the Android platform and allow video recording and photography on Opera Mini for the iPhone.