Surf the Web, Watch TV on Nintendo DS

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata at a Tokyo news conference last night announced two exciting new features for the company's DS handheld.

The first bit of news is that Opera Software will supply its Internet browser for use on the Nintendo DS. The Opera browser, based on the core of the desktop browser of the same name, will be sold on a DS cartridge in Japan (a domestic release has not been announced yet) sometime this June for 3,800 yen (about $32). When users boot up the DS with the Opera cartridge they will be able to surf the Internet using both screens of the handheld in addition to an on-screen touch keyboard. Upon connecting the DS to a network via its Wi-Fi feature, users can navigate the web in a PDA-like fashion.

"This is a breakthrough," Opera co-founder and chief executive Jon S. von Tetzchner told The Associated Press. "This is the first time we have provided a browser for a game device. There had been no really good browser earlier in the game machine market."

"The incredibly popular Nintendo DS is already Wi-Fi enabled to support real time gaming, so adding Web browsing capabilities was a natural evolution for this device," said Opera Executive Vice President Scott Hedrick. "Gaming devices are growing more advanced and a great Web experience is becoming a product differentiator for gaming manufacturers. Opera is excited to work with Nintendo to deliver a unique dual screen, full Internet experience on Nintendo DS."

"Within just five seconds of turning on the system, the Nintendo DS is already fully operational. This makes it the ideal device to enable people to swiftly obtain the latest information from the internet, wherever they are," added Masaru Shimomura, Deputy General Manager of Nintendo's R & D Department. "Opera exceeded our expectations with its user friendly interface, quick access to all your favorite sites, ease of use and, most importantly, in making the best use of the Nintendo DS system's unique double screens and touch screen features. Opera is an important partner for Nintendo in our efforts to further expand the users of the Nintendo DS."

In addition to web surfing capabilities, Nintendo also announced plans for a digital TV tuner card, the DS Terrestrial Digital Broadcast Receiver Card, that would allow DS users to watch digital broadcasts. Unfortunately, as it stands right now Nintendo has said that it has no overseas plans for the digital TV card. That being said, it's certainly possible that the company will change its mind down the road. Digital broadcasts in Japan are scheduled to begin this April and mobile phones that display these broadcasts are beginning to go on sale already; Nintendo wants to take advantage of this trend with its handheld.

"We are aiming for an unquestionable proliferation of Nintendo DS as a gaming platform," commented Iwata.

Iwata also mentioned that since it first launched in December 2004, sales of the Nintendo DS in Japan have now reached 6 million; that's only 14 months to reach that mark compared to the PS2 which took about 20 months to sell as many. Nintendo said it's now targeting 10 million units sold in its native land this year.

The news of plans for a web browser and a TV tuner card comes hot on the heels of Nintendo's announced DS Download Service and Metroid Voice Chat, and it's a clear indicator that Nintendo is serious about positioning the DS as much more than a games console. With the PSP seemingly fighting Apple's iPod for a piece of the multimedia device market, Nintendo's new DS Lite (with "iPod white" color scheme) combined with the newly announced features could make the handheld a more appealing option to gamers in this market.

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