Firefox parent Mozilla is hard at work shrinking its Web browser software to work on mobile phones. So far, it’s available in a very early edition for some Nokia (NOK) gadgets, with the first “alpha” release scheduled for August, DailyTech reports.
Why bother? Because the high end of the mobile browser market, where Mozilla will operate, is poised to explode in the next six years, according to a report published today by ABI Research.
ABI sees “open-Internet” browsers, like Firefox and Opera, soaring to 700 million units delivered worldwide in 2013, 820% more than the 76 million delivered last year. (These “open-Internet” browsers support more sophisticated Web technologies like AJAX, CSS, etc., unlike the crappy browsers available on most mobile phones.)
The upside for companies like Mozilla: If they can get deals from mobile phone makers/carriers to get pre-loaded onto phones, and/or companies like Google (GOOG), which pays them to be the default search engine on their PC-based browsers, the mobile market could be very lucrative.
What’s driving growth? Cool smartphones like Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone, which have demonstrated to consumers that they can get a decent Web experience on a small screen if they have a powerful Web browser. The proof: Almost 85% of iPhone owners browse the Web on their phones, versus 13.1% of the overall U.S. mobile market, according to research firm M:Metrics.
A better browser market is also good news for carriers like AT&T (T), Verizon Wireless, and Sprint Nextel (S). The more subscribers that want to use the mobile Web, the better. As consumers spend less money on mobile phone calls, the carriers are looking to grow by selling mobile data products, like all-you-can-eat mobile Web access.
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