Opera Mini tops 1M downloads to iPhone

Norwegian browser maker not worried about iPhone OS 4 SDK changes

More than a million copies of Opera Software's new iPhone browser were downloaded in the first 24 hours of Opera Mini's availability, a company executive said Thursday.

The browser, which differs from the iPhone's built-in Safari in that it draws compressed pages from Opera's servers to speed up delivery, was approved by Apple for the iPhone's and iPod Touch's App Store on Monday, three weeks after it was submitted.

"We were at the top of the charts of every 22 App Stores," said Dag Olav Norem, Opera's vice president of mobile products, referring to a point earlier this week. Currently, Opera Mini is in the No. 1 spot on 14 of the 22 charts for free applications, and is no lower than No. 3 in any. In the U.S., the browser is No. 2.

Norem declined to provide detailed download numbers for each market, but said that the U.S., with a larger iPhone user base than any other, naturally led the charge.

As of yesterday, Opera claimed that Mini had been downloaded to Apple's mobile devices 1,023,380 times.

Opera has pitched Mini as a faster alternative to Safari on the iPhone and iPod Touch, claiming that it's up to six times faster rendering a page, courtesy of the intense compression -- up to 90% -- that's conducted on the data before it's sent to the browser.

Norem declined to commit Opera to a version of Mini specific to the iPad, Apple's new media tablet. "That's still up in the air," he said, affirming what other Opera executives have said, even after the company hinted it might do an iPad edition if Apple accepted Opera Mini on the iPhone.

Opera is giving away Mini on the iPhone, and relying on income from search deals to provide it revenue. Opera has struck different agreements with several large mobile carriers, including AT&T -- Apple's exclusive iPhone partner in the U.S. -- to craft custom editions of the browser for other smartphones.

"Opera Mini has the same interface on all devices," Norem said as he explained Opera's development process. "It looks exactly the same on other phones as on the iPhone. That work has been a huge investment."

A controversy over a recent change to the license of Apple's software development kit (SDK) will not affect Opera, Norem said. The change, which requires iPhone applications to be written in Objective-C, C, C++ or JavaScript, has been seen as a move by Apple to bar software written with cross-platform compilers such as those offered Adobe, Appcelerator, Novell and Unity.

"We don't believe this affects us, or Opera Mini," said Norem. "But we'll be checking with Apple."

Many of the development toolmakers have been trying to calm jittery developers worried about whether they will be allowed to continue creating software using cross-platform compilers.

"We believe we're not only in the clear, but when it comes to the intent within that language, we think we're in a more favorable position going forward," said Scott Schwarzhoff, vice president of marketing for Appcelerator, whose Titanium tool produces native iPhone applications from JavaScript and HTML.

Opera Mini can be downloaded free of charge from the iTunes App Store.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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