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Shrek
Jan 28, 2003, 02:43 AM
http://news.com.com/2100-1001-982314.html?tag=fd_lede2_hed (http://news.com.com/2100-1001-982314.html?tag=fd_lede2_hed)

Mac Opera Gored on Safari?

By Paul Festa (paulf@cnet.com?subject=FEEDBACK: Mac Opera Gored on Safari?)
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
January 27, 2003, 9:44 PM PT

Opera Software expressed significant doubts it would continue producing a browser for the Macintosh operating system, illustrating a growing problem for third-party Mac developers as Apple Computer steps up its own application development efforts.

Opera, based in Oslo, Norway, on Tuesday released Opera 7, its first final version of a newly rewritten browser. As usual, the company released a browser for Windows before making available versions for other operating systems.

But this time, the company did not set a date for a Macintosh release, and instead questioned whether one would be forthcoming at all.

The reason? Apple's own launch of its Safari browser at Macworld in San Francisco earlier this month. Safari, now out in a test or "beta" version, is based on the open-source browser project KHTML. KHTML is part of the K Desktop Environment, an open-source graphical interface for Unix workstations.

"I'm not a quitter, and our company isn't a quitter, but it really is up to Apple," said Jon von Tetzchner, chief executive of privately held Opera. "The Mac platform may not be viable for us any longer."

Specifically, Tetzchner said that he had asked Apple whether it would be willing to license Opera either to replace KHTML, or to supplement the current Safari version, which Apple said is a stripped-down affair with a minimalist interface and limited feature set.

"We have contacted Apple and asked them if they want a third-party browser, and we'll see what the answer is," Tetzchner said. "They could say we want to use Opera as the core engine. If they want KHTML as a simple little browser, and also something more advanced, we would be happy to provide it. Obviously, if we don't get any positive signs from Apple, then we have to think about it."

Apple did not return calls seeking comment.

Analysts gave Opera slim chances of success with this line of defense.

"Let's just say that Opera Software can't threaten Apple," said Ross Rubin, analyst with eMarketer in New York. "And competition from a free Apple product is the kiss of death--perhaps even worse than competing with a free Microsoft product."

Opera's consternation over Safari is the second shock wave Apple's launch has sent through the browser market. The advent of Safari also rattled (http://news.com.com/980492) Mozilla, exposing concerns over that browser's size, and catapulted KHTML from obscurity to potential widespread adoption.

Opera's Mac travails are nothing new to developers of third-party software--for the Mac or any other operating system. Developers routinely find themselves sidelined as operating system companies fold applications into the OS or launch separately marketed applications for it.

With the Mac, however, the problem has become more acute in recent months and years as Apple has worked aggressively to market its own line of Mac-specific multimedia and Internet applications.

"If Apple subsumes more features into its OS, smaller developers are going to pay the price and have to evaluate whether it's worth continuing to work on this market," said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with Jupiter Research. "It's incumbent on Apple to take its destiny into its own hands and it cannot rely on third-parties to deliver platform-differentiating solutions."

Last quarter the online music service MusicMatch decided to drop its service for the Mac, following Apple's release of the competing iTunes application.

At the time, MusicMatch reasoned that with Apple directly competing with it for an already small pool of users, maintaining development on a Mac version no longer made business sense.

Opera echoed that logic this week.

"It's not a platform where we've earned a lot of money," said Tetzchner. "It's a business decision. We have been putting a lot of resources into the Apple version and think we have a much better product, but it's still a question whether it's worth it."

Tetzchner said Opera engineers had been redoubling their efforts on the Mac version in an effort to catch up to Opera's version for Windows. He said the company would make a decision on the fate of Opera for the Mac "in the next couple of months."

Final act for Opera?
Opera has proved a resilient niche player in the browser market, despite the fact that most analysts years ago called that battle in Microsoft's favor.

The scrappy private company has geared its business toward areas where Microsoft was thought to be weak--particularly the market for cell phone and Internet appliance browsers, whose makers are wary of reliance on Microsoft, an operating system competitor.

But analysts say that Opera faces an increasingly difficult sell as more and more device manufacturers opt for open-source alternatives--as Apple did with its selection of KHTML.

"The axis against Microsoft, certainly rooted in the carriers but with the Japanese CE companies starting to make overtures there, is looking more toward open-source solutions," Rubin said. "So Opera is between the rock of Microsoft and the hard space of open source."

In addition to their free licensing terms, open-source alternatives give companies like Apple the option of altering the code themselves to suit their own applications. And those advantages are proving open source to be a formidable competitor to small companies like Opera.

Tetzchner cited anecdotal evidence to suggest that Opera was continuing to do well on Linux-based devices, and pointed to the company's relationship with IBM, and others, to demonstrate the company's ability to cut deals in the era of open source.

He said the primary open-source alternative, the AOL Time Warner-supported Mozilla.org project, was simply too large to be used on small browsing devices.

"Code bloat" was indeed a key factor in Mozilla's failure to win the Apple account. But that loss didn't benefit Opera--it benefited KHTML.

Tetzchner brushed off the notion that KHTML would erode Opera's share of the market.

"KHTML is not a bad browser," said Tetzchner. "But we believe we have a stronger product."

Kid Red
Jan 28, 2003, 09:30 AM
The last line in the article makes me laugh.

dricci
Jan 28, 2003, 09:46 AM
Wow, you make an ugly, sucky product for a platform where users demand perfection and nobody uses it? Gee Whiz!

Let me run this through my press release translator: "We're too lazy to make a decent competitive product, so we will take our punctured and deflated ball and go home." :D

macktheknife
Jan 28, 2003, 11:42 AM
I think Opera isn't a terrible browser (I love running it on my PC at work), but I do think Safari is better. Unfortunately, we (and especially Apple) must take Opera's lament seriously. Apple has to provide a delicate balancing act to create specially-tailored software for OS X to ensure users get the best "Apple experience." However, it should try not to step on too many developers' toes, lest they discourage more program development on the Mac. The only solution to this, of course, is for Apple to grow its user base to ensure the pie is big enough for everyone.

rainman::|:|
Jan 28, 2003, 01:53 PM
Yeah, the idea that apple would use opera as a core is a joke, they obviously think pretty highly of themselves... but apple should do everything it can (short of making a ****ty browser) to encourage these apps to continue, because competition drives things along. god forbid safari should become like IE, and then stop developing because it's the only viable option... that would suck...

pnw

gbojim
Jan 28, 2003, 01:57 PM
Originally posted by macktheknife
I think Opera isn't a terrible browser (I love running it on my PC at work), but I do think Safari is better. Unfortunately, we (and especially Apple) must take Opera's lament seriously. Apple has to provide a delicate balancing act to create specially-tailored software for OS X to ensure users get the best "Apple experience." However, it should try not to step on too many developers' toes, lest they discourage more program development on the Mac. The only solution to this, of course, is for Apple to grow its user base to ensure the pie is big enough for everyone.

I agree 100% with the concept, but in this case I have no pity for the folks at Opera. I have tried to use Opera more than once in the past and was never satisfied.

I would bet if Opera and Mozilla were shipping excellent products, Apple would never have found it necessary to allocate the huge resources that must have been required to develop Safari.

rainman::|:|
Jan 28, 2003, 02:28 PM
Originally posted by gbojim


I agree 100% with the concept, but in this case I have no pity for the folks at Opera. I have tried to use Opera more than once in the past and was never satisfied.

I would bet if Opera and Mozilla were shipping excellent products, Apple would never have found it necessary to allocate the huge resources that must have been required to develop Safari.

Amen. Apple gave them all plenty of time to develop *one* decent browser for OS X, it come down to it being apple's responsibility to OS X to develop safari. we couldn't have a bad browser forever, considering the web browser so important...

pnw

ChicagoMac
Jan 28, 2003, 03:09 PM
I personally don't like Opera or Safari. On my 17" imac they are both slower than Chimera. Safari hesitates too much for me, even on my DSL connection. As far as Opera goes, I guess the fat lady is singing. The show is over and I give it a thumbs down. Chimera still gets my vote.

mac15
Jan 28, 2003, 06:35 PM
If Opera dies, who cares, Apple has its own browser now, we still have Chimera and Mozilla and Omniweb and don't forget icab, plus opera sucks anyways