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Opera
 

Opera


  Opera
rising star
by Sultan Omar
December 30, 2002

It's a classic David versus Goliath saga. A Norwegian inventor inspired by the vision to provide the best Internet experience hopes to stage a coup in the web browser market by threatening the monopoly of Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
 
 

Classified by purists as another Netscape in the making, Opera is the brainchild of Jon von Tetzchner, CEO of Opera Software ASA. Von Tetzchner developed Opera Software with his colleague Geir Ivarsoy while working at Norwegian telecom company, Telenor, in 1994. A year later von Tetzchner started independent development company Opera Software ASA, which offers the high-quality Opera web browser, available for a number of platforms, operating systems and embedded Internet products.

Opera's key business objective was to earn global leadership in the desktop and embedded products' market. Von Tetzchner's optimism was based on the premise that people never bought IE; it's bundled with the Windows operating system, which makes it less of an active choice and more of a default. (Microsoft's bundled browser also helps contribute to the demise of Netscape Navigator.)

Unfazed by Microsoft's broader footprint and corporate clout, von Tetzchner decided to differentiate his browser by making it compatible with multiple platforms rather than just Windows. He set out to convince technology giants of Opera's pre-eminence over Internet Explorer and clinched licensing deals with Palm, iMode, Nokia, Motorola, Sony, Matsushita and Ericsson. He also entered into an exclusive arrangement with Nokia-backed Symbian wherein all the software provided by the company to handheld communication devices would carry the embedded Opera software.

Although its market share is only a little more than five percent in the desktop segment (with about 35,000 downloads of its software daily), Opera is the fastest growing browser today in that space, due to its compatibility with other platforms. However, Microsoft remains the clear leader while Netscape continues to decline.

So what does Opera have over Internet Explorer? Opera is fast – noticeably faster than IE on a dial-up connection and even via new generation cable modems. In fact, it may seem as if your Internet connection has been mysteriously upgraded. Once in the browser, right clicking on highlighted words or selected text allows the user to search in all of the major search engines, consult a dictionary or thesaurus, send email, and even translate into five languages.

Preferences allow the user to customize Opera to allow pop up windows, open them in the background, or suppress them altogether -- surfers can toggle between these options during a browsing session simply by pressing F12. Additionally, Opera obviates the need to open a separate window for a new page. The taskbar at the bottom will show only Opera, not a button for each Opera window one has opened; within Opera another taskbar showing all the pages that are open. It's neater, tidier, better.

Opera makes surfing on smaller monitors and laptops easier by incorporating a toolbar that features a drop-down box with percentages in it. This will reduce the size of the page being viewed so that the user can zoom in or out eliminating the need for horizontal scrollbars. Mastering the mouse allows the user to do all sorts of things: open windows, close windows, go forward, go backward – even resume an interrupted download. And nicknames can be assigned to favorites, which Opera will recognize. The crux of it all – Opera is endlessly customizable.

The brand has entered into partnerships and alliances worldwide with AMD, Canal+ Technologies, i3 micro, Insignia and Macromedia to develop browser technologies. It is also looking at deploying browser technologies for vertical applications to develop cost-effective end-to-end solutions. In 1998, Opera introduced a premium mail service Operamail and a portal, MyOpera.

In all its endeavors, Opera's business strategy remains compelling – to provide a technology that operates across devices, platforms and operating systems, and delivers a faster, more stable and flexible Internet experience than its competitors. Although Opera stands to gain revenues by virtue of its captive clientele, its earnings have suffered on account of W-CDMA based (wireless protocol), 3G technology not finding many takers in Europe.

Opera is fast, functional, saves memory and is available in many languages for a multitude of platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux/Solaris, OS/2, BeOS, EPOC, and QNX). Through the years, Opera has received numerous awards for its outstanding browser, and the over 15 million downloaded and installed versions worldwide reflect its popularity. The company, which was last valued at US$ 170M (E 168.3M) when venture capital firm Four Seasons invested in it, has no plans to sell out.

Still, von Tetzchner knows that Microsoft will not take things lying down and will launch a strong riposte. But he appears as unruffled as he is committed to developing breakthrough technology and products. Considering Microsoft's recent predicament with the antitrust lawsuit, Opera could prove to be its next nemesis. Goliath in this contest has a lot of catching up to do to dismantle the new age David.

 
     
  

Sultan Omar is a Business Development executive with a leading architecture company. He has an MBA in Marketing from the Amity Business School and lives in New Delhi.

  
     
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