Opera Software has a new browser for smartphone and tablet users. The maker of the widely used browser of the same name will be launching a new smartphone and tablet browser called Opera Ice in February.

Pocket-lint revealed that Opera Ice is an attempt by the company to make a foothold in the mobile browser field dominated by Google and Apple. In an attempt to take these giants heads on, Opera has changed its approach strategy, switching to the WebKit rendering engine that Google Chrome and Apple Safari use instead of Presto, the engine that has powered Opera since 2003.

Opera Ice in a screen-grab (Photo Credits: Pocket-lint)

Opera Ice in a screen-grab (Photo Credits: Pocket-lint)

In a video published by Pocket-lint, Opera CEO Lars Boilesen explains that Opera has traded in the traditional tabs and buttons in favour of an all-touch gesture based control system. The homepage contains compact icons or ‘apps’ as Boilesen describes them. These apps can be used to open pages directly, like Boilesen shows with the Google Maps app. The URL bar and search functions have been combined to make the experience of browsing simpler. Boilesen shifts back and forth between pages via simple swipe hand gestures.

The ‘apps’ can be bookmarked and an icon placed on the opening screen for easier access. Boilesen also showed how going on to a website deemed dangerous by the browser will throw up a very animated warning sign.

This is a full touch and tablet-focused browser,” said Boilesen in the video explaining Opera Ice’s interface. “Most are taking a PC browser and squishing [it] into a tablet, or they are taking a mobile browser and blowing it up to fill the space.

What about the company’s existing mobile web browser Opera Mini? Boilesen says that while Opera Mini was ‘great’, it wasn’t offering features up to Chrome and Safari’s standards. There are also many sites Opera Mini does not work with. Instead of trying to stretch Opera Mini’s capabilities, the company decided to chalk out a new, smartphone and tablet-based browser that was customised to be used via hand gestures and had a UI that was built especially for the platform.

Boilesen confirmed that the company will not be ditching Opera Mini. “Mini is super important … It needs to be a platform where we create users and then migrate those users to over to our smartphone products,” he said. Boilesen also mentioned that there will be a desktop Opera browser to be launched in March.

Opera Ice is slated to be released in February for iOS and Android, said Boilesen. He said that Windows Mobile will also figure in Opera Software’s scheme of things soon, but it isn’t a priority till sales of the platform pick up.

Windows Mobile has seen a severe problem with browsers in the past, with Google blocking Maps on Windows Phone 8. Google had said that Internet Explorer was not a WebKit supported browser, leading to the blocking of the service. Of course, Microsoft refuted the claim saying, “Internet Explorer in Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 use the same rendering engine.” Given this tussle, it wouldn’t be a bad move for Opera to take advantage.

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