Rolf Assev, Chief Strategy Officer at Opera Software ASA  (Source: CrunchBase)
Opera's Chief Strategy Officer Talks About Leadership Change, Browsers

One company that DailyTech covered extensively over the past couple of years is Norway's Opera Software ASA, a third-party browser maker. Opera has long been a small, but significant player in the browser market.  Despite having less than 5 percent of the desktop market, it has been a leading force in pushing advanced web technologies.  It also was the first browser maker to work out a search revenue sharing agreement. 

Today Opera is at a crossroads in terms of growth and services offered.  It has currently built an impressive mobile market share, producing the world's top mobile browser in terms of market share -- Opera Mobile and Opera Mini.  It also has branched into the console world, producing browsers for the Nintendo DSi and Nintendo Wii.  It also is now under new leadership with founder and long-time CEO Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner stepping down on January 5 and being replaced by Lars Boilesen.

We spoke with Opera's Chief Strategy Officer Rolf Assev on the leadership change and the company's future.  First and foremost, Mr. Assev emphasized that the leadership change was not an indication that Mr. Tetzchner was easing away from his leadership role at Opera.

He describes, "I think it's important to point out that this is not something that came as a surprise; Jon for some time has indicated that he wanted to step down and focus on some things besides being CEO... His focus now will be on the development of Opera and company strategy."

The new CEO brings a more business-minded approach and will help Opera perform better financially, while Mr. Tetzchner's continued role at Opera allows the company to continue its technical leadership, according to Mr. Assev.  He states, "I think its a good match."

On the topic of being number one in the mobile browsing market.  Mr. Assev reports, "We're the browser that is most used.  In the U.S. the iPhone browser is the most used, but globally Opera is most used." [Source: StatCounter]

Opera is not allowed on the iPhone, as Apple only allows third party browsers based on WebKit in the app store.

He states that Opera is looking to develop search revenue sharing agreements in the mobile sector, though it hasn't yet.  He describes, "We were the first ones to integrate Google search into our browsers [and work out revenue sharing].  Since that everyone has been copying us.  Our arrangement has been quite profitable.  Google has been a great partner, though they are now also a competitor, which presents new challenges."

He continues about advertising in the mobile sector, stating, "We've been sitting back and looking at it and trying to evaluate when revenue from advertising is worth doing on the mobile. Possibilities like location-aware advertising on smart phone seem very promising.  We believe mobile advertising will be very important down the the road, even if it hasn't been done yet."

Opera, which renegotiated its search-revenue contract with Google in Fall 2009, says it's nearing the point where it may choose to leverage its industry leading market share in the mobile sector for ad revenue.  For now, both in the desktop and the mobile sector, it has been reaping additional profits off of auctioning off non-search browser real estate.  For example, it includes Amazon shortcuts in its browser -- and it earns a percentage on purchases made through those elements.

Currently, Opera's desktop market share sits at around 2 percent, but Mr. Assev says that sector looks very promising.  He states,"It's a bit strange but where we've seen our biggest growth is actually on the desktop.  Now more people see that there are different browsers on the market.  That has had a positive impact for Opera."

He says that despite tough challenges from Google and others in the desktop, mobile, and even console sectors, Opera will continue to post gains.  And with new CEO Lars Boilesen directing the commercial efforts, and former CEO Jon von Tetzchner helping guide strategy and technical development, he feels that Opera will be force to be reckoned with.

"We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs
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