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March 29, 2007

Microsoft teases mobile users with Deepfish

Posted by David Hunter at 8:58 PM ET.

Antone Gonsalves at InformationWeek reports that Microsoft has unveiled a prototype mobile browser with a zoom-in feature to get around the problem of Web pages not formatted for mobile users:

The company introduced Deepfish this week at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in San Diego as a limited technology preview. The software is available by invitation only to a small number of beta users.

Developed by Microsoft Live Labs, the browser has a zoom in/out feature that makes it different than similar software used on phones today. Rather than offering a reformatted version of a Web page, Deepfish captures and delivers the full layout in an as-designed view. Using the software’s joystick, the user can navigate through a page and zoom in and out of portions. The browser doesn’t support Web sites with Ajax, animation, Javascript, cookies, or ActiveX controls.

Since that lets out an incredible number of Web pages, it seems that Deepfish is a trifle on the limited side. However, the basic idea is interesting as described by Jacqui Cheng at Ars Technica:

Most full web pages typically require lots of time to load on a mobile phone due to their having been designed for a computer. Deepfish attempts to get around this problem and minimize bandwidth usage. When it loads the overall thumbnail of the page, Deepfish is not loading the entire page, but rather a smaller, more bandwidth-friendly snapshot of it. And when the user zooms in on certain parts of the page to read, Deepfish only renders that part of the page instead of the entire thing.

Microsoft says that Deepfish can do all of this through the use of a server-side technology, instead of the typical client-side approach that most mobile phones are forced to take, leaving users with less-than-stellar web browsing experiences.

In a nutshell, the server browses the Web for the user and delivers the part of the full screen image the user wants and can fit on his mobile device. I don’t know that it is really a substitute for Web pages designed especially for mobiles, but it might be a good second place for all the pages that aren’t. You can see a video demo (with terrible audio) at Microsoft’s or head over to Live Labs to download the alpha version for your Windows Mobile phone. It’s limited availability, of course, since they have to provision the necessary servers.

Filed under Beta and CTP, Microsoft, Windows Mobile

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