Opera Mini tapped as default browser for Microsoft feature phones

Norwegian software developer Opera has inked a deal with Microsoft to develop the default browser for Microsoft's feature smartphone lines.

Microsoft had been expected to launch a flagship smartphone this year, but shelved those plans even after its recent purchase of global phone manufacturer Nokia. The move led to speculation over the acquisition and whether the transition was moving smoothly.

Now, however, the answer as to why the company put a new smartphone on hold may be apparent. Microsoft wanted to go in a different direction, it appears, and Opera is part of the new smartphone strategy.

"We have signed a strategic licensing deal with Microsoft. We are basically taking over the browser building department in Nokia," Opera Chief Executive Lars Boilsesen said. "This means that Opera Mini will become the default browser for Microsoft's feature phone product lines and the Asha phones product lines."

In a separate statement, the Norwegian company said the licensing agreement with Microsoft will apply to phones based on the Series 30+, Series 40 and Asha software platforms.

"As part of the agreement, people who use the current browser for these phones, Xpress, will be encouraged to upgrade to the latest Opera Mini browser. Factory-new devices will have Opera Mini pre-installed."

The announcement couldn't come at a better time for Microsoft, which has seen its Windows Phone sales drop dramatically, as Tech Times reports. The company was down 9.4 percent in sales compared with the previous year, which was not positive for a company that recently purchased a top phone maker.

An IDC quarterly analysis notes Microsoft is far behind Android and iOS in phone operating systems, garnering a tiny 2.5 percent of the market. But without a new Windows Phone launched this year, analysts believe the numbers could change as soon as a new device is launched.

That is where Opera plays a potentially starring role as Microsoft said it wants to develop a smartphone boasting innovative technology that other phones on the market do not have.

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