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This is either a bold stand for developer rights, or a bald-faced publicity stunt by Opera Software. The Norwegian browser developer has announced that they will be showing off an iPhone version of their popular Opera Mini mobile web browser at the 2010 Mobile World Congress next week.

The controversy lies in the fact that Apple has historically rejected iPhone applications that duplicate core iPhone functionality. That was the logic Apple used to reject the Google Voice iPhone application (or so they say), and it has led to developers avoiding certain applications altogether.

Apple threw developers a bone a year ago by allowing third-party browsers based on the Webkit framework, which Safari also uses. While that opened things up somewhat for competing browsers, the Webkit restriction still prevented major browser competitors like Firefox and Opera, which use their own browser technology, from jumping on the iPhone.

To their credit, Opera makes it clear that Opera Mini for the iPhone won’t be publicly available. The demo is just meant to offer press and industry types a glimpse at what the browser will look like on the iPhone.

When asked if the company has plans to submit the application for approval by Apple, or if it had other plans for distribution (the Cydia jailbroken app store comes to mind), an Opera rep refused to comment. The rep went on to say “We hope that Apple will not deny their users a choice in Web browsing experience.” Good luck with that.

Opera Software is based out of Oslo, Norway, and is publicly traded on the Oslo Stock Exchange under the ticker OPERA. The company recently purchased mobile ad provider AdMarvel for $23 million.

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