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WebKit-based version of NetFront browser aims at IPTVs, STBs

Jun 9, 2011 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 8 views

Access launched a new Android- and Linux-ready version of its mobile browser, based for the first time on the open source WebKit engine. The NetFront Browser NX primarily targets Internet TVs, set-top boxes, and game consoles — including the Nintendo 3DS — and is claimed to offer more efficient memory usage and flexible UI customization than the mainstream NetFront Browser.

We've been covering Access' lightweight Netfront browser for over a decade now, especially as it was integrated in the LiMo-ready Access Linux Platform (ALP) middleware. The browser has been embedded in more than one billion devices worldwide, says Japan-based Access.

NetFront Browser NX Concept UI
(Click to enlarge)

Although it's still in widespread use, especially on Japanese feature phones, NetFront has faded somewhat from our coverage. This is due to in part to the fact that smartphones have stolen market share from feature phones, LiMo has given way to Android, and many other browser companies have entered the mobile space.

Yet Access has always pushed NetFront beyond phones, and the new Browser NX is intended to accelerate that broad focus, addressing "beyond PC" devices. Whereas the mainstream NetFront Browser, now at version 4.0, is optimized for lower-end embedded devices, NetFront Browser NX aims at a wider range of more advanced devices, says the company.

Another NX concept UI (Click to enlarge)

NX still supports mobile phones, but optimizations are cited specifically for Internet Protocol TVs (IPTVs) and set-top boxes (STBs). Other suitable devices are said to include automobile infotainment systems and game consoles. In fact, NetFront Browser NX is the browser engine for Nintendo 3DS game console, and is available to users as a Nintendo 3DS system update as of this week, says Access.

NetFront Browser NX supports ARM, StrongARM, XScale, and "other" processor platforms and runs mobile operating systems including Linux, Android, Unix, and Windows CE, says Access. The browser is said to require less than 25MB of RAM and 12MB of ROM.

Memory optimization and device portability

NetFront Browser NX is the first NetFront version to adopt the WebKit open source web browser engine, which also drives Android and Qt. NX features "one of the world's lowest and most efficient levels of memory usage on WebKit," claims Access. The browser is said to minimize the impact of memory shortages, even under exceedingly low memory conditions, resulting in more stable system behavior.

NetFront Browser NX architecture

The browser is touted for its new API and related platform-independent library, which are said to more easily port user interfaces to a wide range of devices. In addition, NX is said to offer extensive UI customization capabilities. Support is offered for HTML5 and popular web-based services and cloud services, says Access.

Stated Tomihisa Kamada, president and CEO of Access, "NetFront Browser NX achieves the goal of smooth, open-standard Internet connectivity without burdening embedded devices such as the Nintendo handheld game console, Nintendo 3DS."


NetFront Browser NX is available now for the OEM market, says Access. More information may be found at Access' NetFront Browser NX page.

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