Browser wars begin in the mobile space

Software in the mobile sphere has finally reached the same phase that Internet technology reached in the 1990s.

Apparently everything is gearing up for the mobile’s first browser war.

The five superpowers involved are Google, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo and Firefox with the Ottomans being played by Opera and a nice sofa.

This war is being fought for all the usual reasons, living space, in the case of Apple cultural smugness etc. But this time it is hoped that whoever wins the war can direct mobile users to its websites, and gather data that can be used in targeted advertising.

Greg Sterling, an analyst with Opus Research told the Sydney Morning Herald  that the difference between this browser war is that eveyone is trying to manage their strategy in this multiscreen and multiplatform world.

Research firm StatCounter found that Internet access from mobile devices doubled in the year to January to 8.5 per cent of all internet usage.

Google released a full version of its Chrome browser for mobile devices, which will over time replace the unnamed browser on devices powered by Google’s open Android platform.

That browser had grabbed 21.5 per cent of the mobile web, overtaking Opera, the early leader that had 21.3 per cent.

Google is in the Microsoft position in the browser wars. Chrome can elbow its way in  because of Android, and it has a lot of momentum on the PC.

Likewise Apple Safari, which is a joke in the PC market, does well because it is the default browser on iPhones, with 20 percent. Nokia, BlackBerry and a few others pick up crumbs that drop from the others’ table.

Meanwhile the glorious old empire of Microsoft, is likely to return from exile and rally its forces when Windows 8 comes out.

It is pushing its own Internet Explorer browser for devices running Windows, but is limiting compatibility to lock out the riff-raff.

The much maligned Yahoo has also become the latest to toss its hat into the ring by bringing out an Axis browser.

It is supposed to be an improvement on Safari which is not difficult, Google is also understood to be working on something which will do the same thing.

At this point it is not clear how fair the war will be. Microsoft, Apple and Google can risk an antitrust case and attempt to block other users from using their operating system. If it goes to an antitrust action then history will have repeated itself, something which we doubt Microsoft will want to see.

But this browser war has a few unpredictables. This week the social notworking site Facebook was said to be thinking about buying Opera.

Facebook has a problem in that it does not really have a cunning plan to make itself work on mobile yet.

Another outfit which might send in the troops is Amazon, which has developed its own browser for the Kindle. This could be developed to hit other platforms with a similar service. At present the only reason that this has not happened is that Amazon has wanted to keep its hardware and software focused on its products.