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Microsoft Feature Phones To Run Opera Browser by Default

Opera Software has entered a deal with Microsoft in which its Opera Mini browser will come preinstalled on new Microsoft feature phones, the company announced on Thursday.

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

The affected phones are the Series 30+, Series 40 and Asha families, according to the company's announcement, all of which Microsoft inherited when it acquired Nokia's device business earlier this year. Besides Opera Mini being preinstalled on new devices, as part of the deal, existing users of those phones will soon be prompted to switch to Opera Mini from Nokia Xpress, which is the browser the phones currently run.

"People will begin to receive notifications on their phone starting October 2014, providing them with information on how to upgrade from Xpress Browser to Opera Mini," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "The precise dates when these notifications will vary by product family. We intend to fully support people during the full transition period from October 2014 to December 2015."

Microsoft's entry-level Nokia X2 device, which runs a forked version of Android, already uses Opera Mini as its default browser. However, that could change because Microsoft eventually plans to transition the entire Nokia X family to run on Windows Phone.

Opera Mini uses compression technology that helps users lower their mobile data usage and enables the browser to run on most phones. The company claims over 250 million users worldwide, over 100 million of whom are on Android devices. According to the latest available data from StatCounter, Opera Mini held over 11 percent of the worldwide mobile browser market in July.

Feature Phone Plans
Microsoft's plans for its low-end phones are a little mixed. In its July announcement of 18,000 planned job cuts, Microsoft indicated that it intends to phase out its Asha and Series 40 devices as part of its efforts to streamline operations after the Nokia acquisition. An internal memo attibuted to Jo Harlow, head of the Microsoft Smart Devices team, said that Microsoft planned to scale back the production of these feature phones over the next 18 months, and that "there will be no new features or updates to services on any mobile phones platform as a result of these plans."

However, Microsoft just this month launched the more basic Nokia 130 phone, which runs the Series 30+ operating system. Priced at just 19 euro, or $25, the Nokia 130 is aimed at buyers in emerging markets. In an interview with Re/code, Harlow clarified that Microsoft sees more opportunity with basic phones like the Nokia 130 than with feature phones like the Asha or Series 40.

In a prepared statement on Thursday, Rich Bernardo, head of Microsoft's legacy phone business, said the company plans to continue to back its line of feature phones.

"We continue to sell and support classic first and feature phones, as well as the Asha range, which have performed well with millions of people who want new mobile experiences at lower price points," Bernardo said.

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the Senior Site Producer for RCPmag.com.

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