Nokia has released the source code for the mobile phone web browser it developed last year using the same open source frameworks Apple uses in its own Safari browser.

Nokia designed the browser for its S60 mobile phones using these Apple technologies, which it tweaked to better support mobile browsing. Any mobile phone maker or operator can now access the engine that runs the Nokia-developed browser and customise it as they please.

Open standards drive industry growth

"We want to reduce the fragmentation currently in place in mobile browsing," said Lee Epting, vice president of Forum Nokia, Nokia's software development support program.

The code is available at the WebKit Open Source Project.

Epting doesn't expect the fact that the browser comes from Nokia to discourage Nokia's competitors from using it. "It would be one thing if it was under proprietary licensing terms," she said. But Nokia is releasing the code as a BSD License, which she describes as a liberal license that enables anyone to use the code to develop a commercial offering.

Tweaked for mobile devices

Features of the browser include the capability to work well in low-memory situations, a mouse pointer for a similar navigation experience as on the desktop, and support for dynamic HTML (Hypertext Mark-up Language) and AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML). Developers will be able to create their own user interfaces for the browser, a key way for them to differentiate their products, Epting said.

Nokia began offering the browser, which is based on WebCore and JavaScriptCore components of the Safari browser, to S60 licensees, including Siemens, late last year. The browser will ship with all S60 devices in the future, including Nokia's Eseries phones geared toward enterprise users and Nseries phones.

DIY solution based on Open Source kit

When Nokia first announced its open source browser project last year, the company said that creating a browser based on existing open source components was the least-expensive route to offering a full-function browser on its phones. Because of the volume of phones that Nokia ships, licensing a browser from a third party would become cost-prohibitive, Nokia said at the time.

Nokia does license a browser from Opera Software for some phones and isn't making any announcements about changes to that agreement in the short term, Epting said.

In 2004, Nokia made a financial investment in Minimo, the Mozilla Foundation's mobile browser project.