Opera 10 Promises Turbo Boost

Opera 10Opera Software formally unveiled Opera 10 today, the latest version of its desktop Web browser. Although Opera has been doggedly pursuing the desktop market for years, it’s yet to break loose from the pack of browsers that are chasing after Microsoft Internet Explorer and Firefox for market share—Opera remains mired in the low single digits along with Google Chrome and Apple’s Safari, although Opera does enjoy significant pockets of popularity, particularly in Europe.

With its latest release, Opera aims to not only improve its performance with Web-based applications like Gmail and Facebook, also offers a new “Turbo” feature for folks who may not have access to high-speed Internet—or at least not have high-speed access wherever they like. The new Opera Turbo feature uses compression technology to compact Web pages and other data for better performance when, say, trying to access the Internet via a busy Wi-Fi hotspot or using a tethered mobile phone that isn’t getting the greatest signal quality. Although Opera Turbo won’t suddenly turn a sluggish, overloaded connection into a personal fiber link, it does seem to help in some bandwidth constrained situations.

Opera 10 also offers a new Visual Tabs feature that uses thumbnails of a Web page to identify browser tabs, making it easier to quickly identify tabs without flipping through a bunch looking for a particular Web page—although the feature does eat a fair bit of screen real estate. Opera 10 also supports handing off mailto: links to a Web-based email service (like Gmail) rather than a local email client application, and features a number of performance and interface refinements.

Opera 10 is a free download and is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

It remains to be seen whether Opera can make significant inroads into the desktop browser market; however, the company has seen significant success with embedded systems—Opera is the basis for the Wii Web browser—and Opera is a major presence in the mobile browser market.