Opera bets on Apple approval for its iPhone browser

Claims no plans to filing antitrust complaint if Apple nixes Opera Mini

Opera Software ASA today said it's confident that Apple Inc. will approve the Opera Mini browser for the iPhone's App Store.

"Opera Mini is compatible with every requirement for the App Store," said Christen Krogh, Opera's chief development officer. "We don't think it falls under any of the excluded technologies."

Earlier today, Opera announced that it would preview Opera Mini for the iPhone at the Mobile World Congress show next week in Barcelona, Spain, where it will demonstrate the software to partners and reporters. At some point in the near future, it intends to submit the browser to the App Store.

Krogh didn't seem concerned about Apple's oft-stated policy to reject iPhone applications it claims duplicate existing functionality. "There aren't any identical applications on the iPhone," Krogh asserted, even though Apple's own Safari browser is already included on the device.

While he acknowledged that Safari is on the iPhone, and that Safari is a browser, he rejected the idea that Opera's offering is a duplicate. "Opera Mini is a different kind of browser, so we cannot see any conflict with any requirements in the App Store."

Apple most famously used the non-duplication rationale last year to nix Google Voice, according to Google's statements to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which investigated Apple's App Store approval process. Last October, AT&T said it would allow voice-over-IP applications, presumably including Google Voice, to run on its 3G network, while Apple backpedaled and said it would approve VoIP software for the App Store.

Krogh wouldn't specify when his company would submit Opera Mini to the App Store, saying only, "We are working on it" and "quite soon."

Nor would he say what Opera would do if Apple rejects Opera Mini.

In December 2007, Opera filed a formal complaint with European Union antitrust regulators, claiming that Microsoft Corp.'s bundling of its Internet Explorer browser with Windows stifled competition. After an investigation by the European Commission, which filed charges against Microsoft in January 2009, Microsoft bowed to pressure and promised to let EU customers choose the browser they wanted to download and install. The browser "ballot screen" is scheduled to show up on users' desktops next month.

When asked if Opera might file a complaint with the commission if Apple turns down Opera Mini, Krogh laughed and said: "We haven't given that a single second of thought."

If Opera Mini gets onto the App Store, Krogh said it would be more than competitive with Safari, because Opera's browser offers features that Apple's lacks, such as multiple tabs and "speed dial" access to frequently-visited sites. He also touted Opera Mini's integrated compression technology, which is designed to reduce wireless network congestion by compressing pages at Opera-maintained servers before they're passed on to the browser.

"We're comfortable enough [with] where Opera Mini is at to show it to select partners and journalists," said Krogh. "It won't take long before we're ready to submit it to the 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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