Opera Browser Doesn’t Need The iPhone, Says Von Tetzchner

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The iPhone’s effect on the mobile Internet is over-rated, says Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner. What the whole world needs is a browser that can span from PCs down to the old and simple phones

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Is the Opera browser in trouble because it’s missing out on the iPhone boom? Opera chief executive Jon von Tetzchner doesn’t think so. He sees a big future for a browser that spans from desktops down to low-end feature phones.

The Opera browser has been a powerful player on mobile devices for many years, shipped on more than 40 million phones and downloaded onto many more. But the device currently credited with kicking off a boom in mobile Internet use – the iPhone – does not have an Opera browser and probably never will.

Worse still for Opera, the iPhone is pushing a model where users download apps, rather than doing tasks in the browser. How does Opera feel about that, we asked chief executive Jon von Tetzchner at the Wireless and Mobile 09 event in London this week.

“We’re not on the iPhone,” he admitted. Indeed, it was reported last year that Apple rejected Opera from the iPhone, because it duplicates the functions Apple provides.

“Apple’s SDK [software developers’ kit] licence says they don’t want competing app platforms on the iPhone,” said von Tetzchner. “We’ll have to see how they look at a browser.” Opera has an iPhone version in its labs, we gather, if Apple can ever be persuaded to open up.

iPhone is over-rated

Is it painful to own one of the most highly rated mobile applications and be excluded from the biggest flood of mobile Internet usage? Not really, he responded, because the iPhone’s impact on mobile web page views is over-rated: “You have to be careful of Apple’s marketing,” he replied. “It is not true that a majority of mobile Web traffic comes through the iPhone. It might be true if you count the number of bits, but not the number of pages. iPhone users watch lots of video.”

Counting bits is big underestimate of Opera’s activity, he says, and it penalises it for doing a good job on behalf of users and service providers. “If you count bits, we do even worse, because we actually focus on reducing the number of bits – particularly in Opera Mini – so users get a faster experience. And that means a cheaper experience, either for you and the operator.”

Already, everyone is proposing a different iPhone killer, and the Palm Pre, for instance, sxeems likely to propose users do more in the browser than through apps: “More web is the dlrection things are going,” he said. “It’s much easier to build things in the web.”

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