With the impending arrival of the fantastic Opera Mobile, the Android browser wars have officially kicked off. But wait, Opera on Android? That sounds sort of familiar! Here's what's actually going on, and why this is great news:

Opera has announced that it's offering Opera Mobile to OEMs—the people who actually make your phones—to replace, or ship alongside, Android default browser. This is very different from Opera Mini, which has been in the Android Market for months now: Opera Mini is a Java-based browser originally intended for dumbphones, which isn't that great; Opera Mobile, on the other hand, is a full, extremely capable browser, which has long been Windows Mobile's answer to the likes of Mobile Safari and Mobile Chrome.

If the Android version is anything like the Windows Mobile versions of late—and it looks like it is—this is worth getting excited about. It's based on a completely different rendering engine than Android's default browser, supports server-side page compression for faster loading, and has too many useful small features to list, making it the first genuine competing browser on the platform—the others, like Steel and Dolphin, are just variations on the default browser.

The only hangup is that as of now the browser is only available to OEMs, meaning that it wil come with some new phones, but won't be listed in the Android Market, at least for now. We'll have to leave it up to the likes of XDA and Modaco to make it more broadly available, which, let's face it Opera, they totally will. [TechCrunch]