Opera Executive Talks iPhone, HTML5, Browser Momentum

Opera Software's chief development officer, Christen Krogh, tells eWEEK that the high rate of adoption of Opera Mini for iPhone has aided the company's attempts to penetrate the U.S. browser market and the coming months will see moves designed to take advantage of that momentum. Krogh also described HTML5 as an evolutionary format, predicting that within a year more developers would be using the standard to develop online content. Analytics company StatCounter sees Opera as the top mobile browser in the world by market share.

Opera Software hopes to capitalize on its recent momentum to increase its browser's presence in the United States, Chief Development Officer Christen Krogh told eWEEK during a June 23 interview.

At least a portion of Opera's momentum has come from the iPhone. After being offered through the App Store in April, Opera Mini for iPhone was downloaded more than 2.6 million times. Analytics company StatCounter found Opera was the top mobile browser in the world for the first 22 days in June, with 26.4 percent of the market, followed in succession by the iPhone browser at 18.02 percent, the Nokia browser at 15.86 percent and the BlackBerry browser at 14.4 percent.

According Reuters, that represents an increase from February, when Opera Software led Apple by only 2.6 percent. Krogh described the number of iPhone users choosing to keep using the Opera browser as "pretty good," and suggested that the software, along with the Opera Software-created architecture underlying ATT.net, is at least partially responsible for Opera's "recent success in the States."

That increased momentum for Opera, Krogh said, is something that the company "will try to take advantage of" in the coming months, not only on smartphones but also for PC-based Web surfing. Efficiency and speed in the latter, he added, is becoming of paramount importance due to the increasing number of cloud-based applications, which "make speed optimal."

Krogh said, "People are becoming aware that they have a choice of browser." Case in point, he added: In Europe, after the introduction of a "Web browser choice screen" that presented Windows users with several browser options, Opera's rate of adoption increased notably.

In a March interview with eWEEK, Opera Software co-founder Jon von Tetzchner claimed that the company's desktop-based and mobile browsers have between 120 million and 150 million active users worldwide, a number he said was extrapolated from data on Opera Software's servers. The browsers' strongest base is currently in Central and Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa, which von Tetzchner suggested was responsible for Opera being undercounted by analysis companies that sample largely from Europe and North America.

Krogh said Opera's audience in many of those regions has gravitated toward mobile browsers as opposed to surfing on traditional PCs. "There is a generation jumping straight into using the Web on mobile phones," he said; hence the push to develop Opera Mini, in order to take advantage of the ever-increasing rate of mobile adoption.

While the Adobe Flash versus HTML5 debate has occupied much of the smartphone arena's attention for the past few months, after Apple CEO Steve Jobs banned Flash from his company's mobile products, Krogh indicated that Opera Software is taking a measured stance on the issue. "We don't consider Flash as evil; it's a complement to the Web," he said, noting that Opera Software and Adobe Systems have a solid relationship. That said, he described HTML5 as an "evolutionary" standard, predicting that within 12 to14 months more developers would be "using it, with fallbacks" to develop Websites and online content.