Norwegian browser maker Opera Software announced this week that there are now over 100 million people around the world surfing the Web on Opera. Exactly half of those users are on the desktop, including Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms, which represents a 30 percent year-on-year growth rate. The other half cruises the Web with Opera Mini on a variety of handsets, Opera Software said.
"Our focus on speed, security, innovation, and usability continues to yield results. We always listen to the needs and wants of our users, and they reward us by choosing Opera," said Jon von Tetzchner, Co-founder, Opera Software.
Opera is also found on game consoles, Internet-enabled TVs, and some set-top boxes, but the biggest boost going forward might come from the mobile crowd. Opera Software recently released a beta version of its browser to the Android Marketplace, while just this week Apple approved Opera for distribution through its App Store.
Opera has officially submitted their Opera Mini browser to the iPhone App Store. The general consensus is that Apple will reject the browser as it duplicates the functionality of Safari, but Opera seems confident. The browser maker is touting the speed increase saying that Opera mini is six times faster than Safari. It accomplishes this with server side rendering that compresses pages to about 10% of their actual size.
Apple has in the past approved other browsers, but they have all used the Safari WebKit rendering engine. Opera Mini is completely different. We have to wonder why Opera would go to so much trouble when it seems more than likely that the app will be rejected.
Could it be that Opera plans some sort of legal maneuvering similar to the EU complaint against Microsoft that led to the browser ballot screen? For now, the ball is in Apple’s court.
Opera has always had a tough time taking on the big guys in the desktop browser market, but anyone who has given Opera Mini a try on their smart phone platform of choice would probably be pleasantly surprised. Rather than simply spitting out web pages just like everyone else, the "Mini" version of the browser will actually relay messages through the company's compression servers, vastly reducing both load time and data usage on the device. This feature makes it one of the fastest mobile browsers available for any of the open smart phone platforms, which up until now, included just about everything short of the iPhone.
Well according to Opera's Jon von Tetzschner the company is not just working on an iPhone version of its browser, but that it doesn't anticipate Apple having any problem with it either. "Our expectation is that Apple will allow it," von Tetzschner said. "Why will they block ours?" My response to this would be simply, why wouldn't they block it? Apple has a pretty strict policy when it comes to app's that duplicate native phone functionality, but I suppose only time will tell.
Maybe Apple wants to get ahead of the anti-trust wrecking ball then inevitably hunts down anyone who tries to shoehorn web browsers into monopolistic markets, but I wouldn't count on it. Expect to see a release notice, or angry blog posting from Opera within the next few weeks.
As part of a regulatory requirement imposed by the European Union, Microsoft has implemented a browser ballot for European Windows users, and as expected, the ballot has given rise to alternative browsers.
According to Mozilla, more than 50,000 people had downloaded Firefox as a direct result of the choice screen Microsoft is forced to show.
"It's definitely being taken up, so consumers are paying attention and taking advantage of the choice being offered to them," said Thomas Vinje, legal counsel to the European Committee for Interoperable Systems, a lobbying group based in Brussels whose members include Opera.
While the initial results look promising for Firefox and other competitors, Microsoft said it's too early to draw a conclusion on whether the choice screen could lead to significant users ditching Internet Explorer.
Turns out the European Commission was right about browsers: users don’t necessarily find the Internet Explorer (IE) experience as integral to the overall Windows experience as Microsoft says it is. Given a choice, under the newly approved Windows browser ballot, some of the lesser known browser options are seeing a boost in adoption.
Opera, in particular, has been a beneficiary. Rolf Assev, chief strategy officer for Opera is reporting a tripling in its downloads, with big surges in the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Poland, and Spain. No word yet, however, on how other browsers in the ballot are doing
It’s fair to say that a tripling of Opera’s downloads may not amount to much, but it does suggest that, if given a legitimate choice, users will opt for something other than IE. And, in the overall scheme of things, it will be the lesser known browsers that will likely benefit.
Fans of IE should be happy with this. The more competition there is in the browser market, the more Microsoft’s feet will be held to the fire to keep IE up-to-date. Given that smaller market share apps tend to be innovators, it can’t hurt to keep them around, if for no other reason then for the big boys to prey upon the new features they introduce.
Opera Software on Tuesday released Opera 10.50, calling it the "fastest Web browser thus-far produced for Windows computers."
"Opera 10.50 is the fastest browser in almost all speed tests," said Lars Boilesen, CEO, Opera. "But, more important than any speed test is the real-world speed during use. We designed Opera 10.50 to be easy to use, while making our unique features stand out, so you can get more out of the Web."
But it's not all about speed. Opera finally includes a Private browsing feature, and it's implementation is a little bit better than its competitors. Rather than open up a brand new session, you can enable Private browsing in a new tab.
Other features include improved standards support for HTML5 and CSS3, the addition of an Opera menu button giving you one-click access to the browser's new features, and support for Windows 7/Vista visuals such as Aero Glass, Aero Peek, and Jump Lists.
Perhaps looking to run with the big dogs (think Google, Apple), Opera announced it has acquired AdMarvel, a privately held Norwegian Web browser company who makes a product suite aimed at managing how ads are shuttled over to mobile phones.
"In our fast-growing industry, mobile advertising represents an interesting long-term revenue opportunity. Every month, nearly 50 million people access the Web using Opera on their mobile phones and together with AdMarvel, we think we can play an important role in the evolution of mobile advertising," said Lars Boilesen, Chief Executive Officer, Opera Software.
The deal is worth at least $8 million, which is how much Opera will pay AdMarvel in cash, plus up to an additional $15 million more should AdMarvel meet specific financial targets in the next 2 years.
Opera plans to have AdMarvel continue to operate as a separate company, but will also work to integrate AdMarvel's products with Opera Mini for operator offerings.
In a move few saw coming, Opera's CEO and co-founder Jon von Tetzchner stepped down from his position at the company, but he isn't leaving it behind. Instead, Tetzchner will remain full-time at the Norwegian browser maker as a strategic consultant, The Register reports.
Stepping in to fill Tetzchner's shoes as the CEO is Lars Boilesen. Boilesen previously served as VP on the company's board of directors, and before that, assumed the role of sales boss from 2000 to 2005 before a brief stint with Alcatel-Lucent.
"I was very happy about convincing Lars to come back to Opera one year ago. Today, I am very excited about asking him to take over as CEO as we continue our growth and global expansion," said von Tetzchner.
According to data released by Net Applications, the Opera browser claims 2.4 percent of the overall browser market share (2.93 percent if factoring in Opera Mini), trailing Chrome and Safari by a couple of percentage points.
Microsoft's uber-long hiatus between IE6 and IE7 notwithstanding, browser makers can ill afford to stand idle, and on Tuesday Opera Labs served up Opera 10.5 pre-alpha for public consumption. The release comes less than a month after Opera Software released version 10.10 of its popular alternative browser, which recorded 12 million downloads in 7 days.
In a blog post, Roberto Mateu, Product Analyst at Opera Software, said the latest pre-alpha build is based on the Evenes branch and includes Windows and Mac builds, with an UNIX/Linux version slated for a later release. And while the company rarely opens up its software to user testing this early in development, Mateu said they made an exception this time because "we are really excited about what the Desktop team is cooking up and want your feedback."
Get ready Android fans. The mobile browser space is about to get a lot more interesting with the imminent release of Opera Mobile for Android. Don’t confuse this with Opera Mini, which has been available through the Android Market for some time now. Whereas Opera Mini is a java-based browser that was developed for feature phones, Opera Mobile is a full on browser that can stand its ground against the competition.
The odd part here is that it won’t be coming to the Android Market. Opera is only making the software available to OEMs for now. So the next big Android phone could ship with Opera Mobile installed; it could even replace the stock Android browser. Assuming this version of Opera is like the Windows mobile version, it runs a different rendering engine and supports server-side compression like its Mini sibling.
While it will not be available to current Android users just yet, it’s safe to assume that it will soon be in the wild. If Opera doesn’t make it available, the dedicated Android modding community is likely to get a hold of the APK before long. Since the Android Market is really just a suggestion, apps like this can be obtained from outside sources. Between this and Mobile Firefox, it’s going to be an interesting ride. Sorry iPhone users, you’ll be sitting this one out.