Opera chief executive Jon S. von Tetzchner flew in from Norway for an update on the company's Web browser, including the claim that the next version could be about ten times faster than Internet Explorer.
According to von Tetzchner, Opera's is expanding into the mobile market. And, not surprisingly, the upcoming Opera 9.5 revision will be faster and more efficient, he said.
With AOL pulling the plug on Netscape Navigator come February, Opera is now the oldest Web browser still standing. It has less than 2 percent market share in the U.S. but has made strides recently, especially in the mobile arena with the rise of Web-ready smartphones and other handheld devices. According to von Tetzchner, the company's mobile Web browsing platform, Opera Mini, has 30 million users worldwide with around 100,000 new downloads a day.
Opera started working on a mobile browser in 1998, but only recently has there been hardware, such as the Apple iPhone, that has been truly able to take advantage of the software. As a result, it has gained in popularity.
"The iPhone was a great boost for us," von Tetzchner said, adding that what the iPhone does is only a subset of the functionality offered by Opera. Opera is available on 59 phones, as well as on many other devices, such as the Nintendo DS Lite.
"Some tests show it will be twice as fast [as the previous version]" von Tetzchner claimed. "Some tests even show it's as much as 10 times faster than Internet Explorer."
Although the company is still working on building market share in the States, it has become a significant player in the global market. Von Tetzchner told us the browser is popular in the Nordic region and Eastern Europe. Opera has also teamed up with companies like Tata in India to provide less technologically driven populations with mobile Web browsing services. In some areas, Opera mini is the main portal to the Internet. "In Bangladesh more people are getting on the Internet with Opera mini than a PC," von Tetzchner said. "It feels good when you're helping people get online."
The company is looking to hop onto the current trend of moving more software functionality onto the Web, von Tetzchner said. The company has spent a lot of time optimizing the browser to accommodate Web-based software—for example, by working with HTML 5 to create more compact and more accessible code. Doing so will allow more intelligent Web forms, he said. Opera also offers over 1,100 widgets and gives users the ability to create their own.
The company plans to release a beta version of Opera 9.5 in the next two months. The final version should be available by this summer.