Opera has long been thinking smart about browsers, and its focus on mobile has now coalesced into Coast, a more natural approach to browsing on a tablet device.
Taking the Coast Road
Opera Software has long had a powerful vision of the Internet being accessed across a device-agnostic browser, with varying degrees of success with Opera for Mobile. It has also dabbled in mobile advertising and is having another stab at success with Coast, a browser initially for the iPad that takes the home screen concept to the browser and makes use of swiping and gestures to navigate and manage your sites.
That's a powerful concept in its own right, but we've seen many browsers come and go (most recently RockMelt) that have tried to do things differently and then faded away. Opera though has the experience to do it right. For a start, suitably for the tablet age, favorites are stored as icons on a home page, rather than scrolling through lists of pages. Also, page updates happen automatically in the background, no stabbing away at that Refresh button, whatever its shape.
Yes, the gesture controls will probably take a little getting used to, but don't they always on any new app, but there's a handy little video when you install the app to guide you through the basics of searching and adding those favorites.
Very Much A Version One
However, things aren't running perfectly yet. The app is slow to load pages, with a noticeable delay between tapping and a page appearing. Scrolling content-heavy sites shows blank chunks of screen until the loading has caught up. The actual interface though is fun to use and a more natural to slide through a collection of regularly-accessed open pages.
The restriction of just nine sites per page of the front end is also rather weak, given the amount of wasted space on an iPad 3 (and if they up the screen size or resolution on the next model, it could look even weaker). But these are all issues that can be fixed, and when you can print content from or share a page in just a click or two, there's lots to recommend at least giving Coast a try.
On the Coast Opera website is an invitation for site owners and developers to optimize their sites for new the browser. With Google's Chrome adding offline apps, and now Coast adding sites that look like app icons, its been a strange few days in tech, but accepting change and seeing where it can take us is good.