Opera, which just launched the latest version of its Opera Mini browser for the iPhone and iPad, started life as a desktop browser for Windows, but was not able to make a dent in the market which was dominated by Netscape and Internet Explorer. Today, Opera does not have a significant share of the desktop browser users (a mere 1.91 per cent of the market, according to StatCounter, compared to 44.52 per cent on Internet Explorer, 29.67 per cent on Firefox and 18.29 per cent on Chrome) but it has the most popular mobile browser, accounting for 21.9 per cent of a far more competitive market.
The company recently carried out a Opera Software On Device survey to try and understand the users of their browsers and discovered that in the 13 - 34 demographic, 95 per cent of all users were male. Another finding of the survey was that for 49 per cent of the respondents, their mobile phone was the only point of contact to the internet.
Sunil Kamath, Director, Sales India and South Asia, Opera, said, “We also found that new mass market handsets aimed at the bottom of the pyramid are gaining a lot of traction, with Micromax being the leader here. Amongst these users, there has been a lot of traction, so for marketers, it represents a great opportunity with users on average having 450 page views in a month.”
However, while mobile has been a major growth area for Opera, the company is also looking at new ways to get people to access the internet. Kamath said, “We are seeing more and more devices connect to the internet, and we believe that someday all devices will talk to each other over the net. Our goal is to put Opera into every device that a user might conceivably connect.” For now though, the focus remains on mobile. Kamath shared that Opera has been working to form partnerships with telecom operators, so that Opera is preloaded onto phones and onto the wireless connection USB dongles.
He said, “Our service is particularly relevant in places like India where connection speeds are still not very good. Our browsers use a service called Opera Turbo, which can greatly improve the browsing speed for users, because we compress the data at our own servers, reducing the amount of data that users have to load. This is also a money saver for users, since most data plans are metered by the amount of data used.”
However, while mobile might be the focus today, the future is across multiple devices and Kamath said that the first stop on the road is going to be television. He said, “Opera doesn’t have a documented plan on this but the idea is to bake the browser into TVs and Set Top Boxes, since these devices are also already connected and so can be used to access the internet as well. The biggest hurdle which is keeping people out of this space is billing – how can you enable people to make payments directly from their television screen? That is something that we still have to figure out, it’s too early to say, but Opera is working on this as well.”