Will Opera embrace WebKit to better compete on iOS and Android?

Company confirms the WebKit-based Ice browser is real, but remains mum on when or if it will go public

Opera Software may be poised to launch a new, redesigned browser built on WebKit, the same framework on which Chrome and Safari are built, according to reports spawned from a leaked video on Pocket-Lint. Said video shows an unnamed Opera developer demonstrating a browser dubbed Ice with a sparse design devoid of tabs and buttons. It could be a play to win over iOS and Android users.

An Opera spokesperson told InfoWorld that the company is not commenting on the video beyond confirming its legitimacy. "What you saw was a sneak preview of one of our innovation projects here at Opera," according to the spokesperson. "When and if we decide to release this project to the public, we'll let you know."

The move to WebKit would be but part of Opera's rebirth, judging by the video. The browser doesn't have tabs, for example; instead, users can create icons on the home page to jump between pages. There are no Back or Forward buttons, either; rather, user swipe from left to right to move forward, and the opposite direction to go backward. Creating bookmarks entails tapping and dragging an icon on the opening screen, in a look reminiscent of the boxy Windows 8 UI.

"We need to focus on getting strong products out on iOS and Android. These are the two leading platforms we will focus on.... They are the ones phones are being sold for," said Opera CEO Lars Boilesen, according to Pocket-Lint. "Opera Mini is great, but it is not a fully fledged offering like Chrome or Safari. There are too many sites it doesn't work with," he said.

A refreshed Opera browser wouldn't be too surprising: Opera has seen its mobile browser market share dwindle from 24.2 percent at the end of 2011 to 16.9 percent at the end of 2012, per StatCounter. Whether a shift from a Presto-based browser to one built on WebKit will significantly change Opera's fortunes remains to be seen. Notably, though, Microsoft has arguably suffered a drawback in clinging to Trident in favor of WebKit: Windows Phone users can't access Google Maps via Internet Explorer Mobile.

This story, "Will Opera embrace WebKit to better compete on iOS and Android?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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