Opera submits iPhone browser, still expects Apple's consent

iPad edition of Opera Mini may be next, says company's co-founder (see video below)

Opera Software today announced that it had submitted its mobile browser to the iPhone App Store, and the company's co-founder remained confident that Apple would approve the software.

If Apple allows Opera Mini on the iPhone, Opera may follow with a version for the iPad, which starts shipping April 3.

"Now, the ball is in their court," said Jon Von Tetzchner, an Opera co-founder and former CEO. "It's not violating the iPhone SDK, and Apple has approved other browsers. I think it would be strange if Apple rejected it."

Opera used a company blog to announce that it had officially submitted Opera Mini to the App Store today.

The move fulfills a promise Opera made last month, when it previewed Opera Mini for the iPhone to partners and reporters at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona, Spain. At the time, Christen Krogh, Opera's chief development officer, dismissed concerns that Apple would deny admittance to the App Store, the only sanctioned iPhone software outlet.

Today, Von Tetzchner repeated several of Krogh's comments, including rejecting the idea that Opera Mini is a direct competitor to Safari, the iPhone's native browser. "Opera Mini is a client-server solution, so we're not really introducing a new run-time," Von Tetzchner said, referring to the page rendering that takes place on Opera's servers, a practice it uses to compress pages so that they download faster over wireless networks. Opera claims that Opera Mini generates Web pages six times faster than Safari.

"We think it would be a very welcome addition to the iPhone," Von Tetzchner added. "People are chewing up to get it."

In the past, Apple has explained some App Store rejections by claiming the submitted software duplicated existing functionality in the iPhone. As Krogh did before him, Von Tetzchner argued that Opera Mini was different. "It's not really a direct competitor [to Safari]," he said. "And from an end user's perspective, the question really is, 'Can you handle multiple browsers?'"

Apple most famously used the non-duplication rationale to nix Google Voice last year. In January 2010, Google launched a Web-based version of the telephony software for the iPhone.

Von Tetzchner also denied that Opera would turn to the courts if Apple rejected Opera Mini. "Obviously, we'd be sad" if the software is barred from the App Store, he said. "But Apple doesn't have a [smartphone] monopoly in the U.S., so there would be no antitrust."

Speculation about an Opera legal move stems from the Norwegian browser maker's complaint to European Union antitrust regulators in late 2007, when it claimed that Microsoft's bundling of its Internet Explorer browser with Windows stifled competition. After an investigation by EU authorities, Microsoft bowed to pressure and began delivering a ballot screen that gives European Windows users a way to choose one or more rival browsers.

Opera has said the number of downloads of its desktop browser have more than doubled since the ballot was introduced March 1.

If Apple does okay Opera Mini, Opera may craft a version specifically for the iPad, the Apple media tablet that will also connect to the App Store. "As Apple has said, most applications for the iPhone will run equally well on the iPad," said Von Tetzchner. "[Opera Mobile] is a very flexible program, and it would run very well on the iPad."

Apple did not respond to a request for comment on Opera's submission; the company's policy is to not comment on App Store submissions.

At CTIA Wireless in Las Vegas on Tuesday, the Opera Mini Web browser for the iPhone was finally ready for its closeup.

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.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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