Just as competition is heating up among mobile browsers, Opera may hope to grow its user base through deals with Yahoo and Vodafone.
Yahoo plans to begin offering downloads of the Opera Mini browser from its Yahoo Mobile website, which will launch in March. Opera Mini is a very small browser that works in conjunction with back-end servers that shrink web content for easier delivery to mobile phones.
The browser is already offered free and used by 20 million people, according to Opera. But a promotion on Yahoo's Mobile site will likely boost the number of users.
Yahoo Mobile, introduced on Tuesday at the Mobile World Congress, is a successor to Yahoo Go, an application that serves as a portal for applications and news for mobile phones. The Yahoo Mobile application will become available for iPhones in March and for Java-based smartphones in May.
Opera is likely to rack up additional users through a separate deal with Vodafone. Opera plans to develop a custom version of Opera Mini for Vodafone, designed for low- and mid-priced phones. Vodafone will preload the browser on phones sold in some markets and will target it at people who are likely to connect to the Internet for the first time on their mobile phones. The browser will be available across Vodafone markets in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa, the companies said.
Also at MWC, Opera said it has joined the LiMo Foundation, the group developing middleware for Linux-based mobile phones.
All of the deals could help Opera better compete in the mobile market as browser makers continue to work to improve mobile Internet access. Microsoft announced at MWC an update to IE Mobile with features that let users more easily zoom into portions of web pages. Also, Mozilla continues progress on development of its Fennec mobile browser.