The mobile browser market is undergoing significant change, as the mobile Web evolves from a poor man’s Internet to a full-fledged Web experience.
Many believe the iPhone, with its browser based on Webkit, gave users their closest approximation yet to the Internet they see on a PC; but the move away from Wireless Access Protocol (WAP), and its descendants to a more PC-like version of the Web has been underway for the last three or four years.
While a large number of phones today still use web browsers with very limited capabilities, many smartphones have browsers that support the latest technologies such as AJAX and RSS.
Companies such as Opera, Openwave, and Access are making browsers with the latest Web standards, despite the inherent shortcomings of mobile devices.
The market-research firm ABI Research sees this segment of the market accounting for the vast majority of growth over the next five years, and predicts that the number of these highly functional mobile browsers shipping per year will grow from 76 million in 2007 to nearly 700 million in 2013.
Still a Ways To Go
Despite recent progress, this company says it’s important to note that despite the best efforts of browser developers and smartphone makers, web usage on mobile devices lags well behind PC-based browsers.
The absence of important plug-ins such as Flash and the slower processors of many phones compared to desktops and laptops mean that browser vendors such as Skyfire continue to see a need for proxy-based browsers for transcoding and web acceleration.
"There is a lot of development momentum for web content on mobile phones," says research director Michael Wolf. "The move towards web-based applications means browser and web services engines will become increasingly important for mobile, whether these are in a commercial browser implementation or a customized widget. Ultimately, the long-term trend away from native applications to web-based applications means browser and web services engines will be increasingly important components in the mobile environment."
ABI Research’s new report, The Mobile Browser Market, analyzes the market for mobile browsing, examining the primary commercial offerings from independent browser vendors as well as evaluating the growing important of open-source solutions such as Webkit. The report also looks at the push towards Web applications and the use of widgets for mobile devices.