Opera moves from the desktop to everywhere

At first glance, the long-standing browser wars are over. Once-dominant IE is seeing more of its mindshare usurped by Firefox every day. But take a step back and you’ll see there are competitors gnawing at the edges, whether its Apple’s Safari delivering web content over the iPhone and on your Macbook, or Google’s new Chrome browser fighting for recognition.

But take a further step back, past the desktop, and that’s where you’ll find Opera.

Though Opera was one of the first browsers to challenge Internet Explorer, back in the mid-90’s, the company decided long ago to cede the desktop to closed and open source giants, and instead concentrated on the world beyond the desk, be it mobile phone, picture frame, embedded system or even the Nintendo DS and Wii.

“We could see that everything would eventually be connected, and we wanted to put our resources into being cross-platform,” Opera Communications manager Ted Miller said.

And in addition to going cross-platform, Opera put a substantial effort into criss-crossing the globe, making sure their software was in place in markets as divergent as Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

“We get statistics on what people are doing with their phones, and we see just as much data use coming from old Nokia phones in Egypt as you’d see from iPhones based in San Francisco,” Miller said.

Currently Opera provides two solutions on the mobile space, Opera Mini, which works on a client server model and can be run on any Java-enabled phone, and a full obile web browser, which works on Windows Mobile and Symbian 6 phones. Unlike the iPhone, those models can run Flash and other plugins.

And though its unlikely Opera will be able to get their browser onto the iPhone, Miller acknowledged that the current surge in smartphone use is in no small part due to the introduction of Apple’s ubiquitous device.

But for Opera, the future lies in not only standards and cross-platform compatibility, but in the widget.

“Lots of people put out RFPs for widget technology over the last year, but we already have a Widget SDK out,” Opera regional sales manger Mike McCrady said.

The eventual plan is to be able to create “widget repositories”, so the user will have a group of useful widgets for home, another for the office, and all are able to sync and communicate across devices.

But in the immediate future, Opera has some “major announcements” in the works for the upcoming CTIA conference this April in Las Vegas.