Opera boss orchestrates the handheld web

Jon Tetzchner, the CEO of Opera Software, explains why WAP was a dead-end and why the iPhone has it right: it's got to be one web, wherever it goes, he says.


"Our thinking is there's only one internet, so our goal is you have the same access to it from any device, whether it's a PC, a phone or a TV," says Tetzchner.

He adds, "There's only one network, and if a [business] model doesn't work on the PC, it won't work on a mobile."

Increasingly that means the same capabilities everywhere, not merely similar functionality, he argues – even if to achieve that you have to shift some of the page processing into the network to allow for lower-powered devices, as Opera does for its Opera Mini browser.

The Norwegian company's new flagship, though, is Opera Mobile, a fully HTML-compliant browser that's offered both to hardware manufacturers – Opera claims 115 different devices shipped with its software aboard last year – and for end users to download.

Indeed, it says the next release, Opera Mobile 9.5 will not only have the same capabilities as its latest Opera 9.5 desktop release, it will even use the same rendering engine, called Presto 2. Opera Mobile 9.5 is due out in beta this spring on Windows Mobile, with Symbian and Linux versions to follow.

WAP and its kin were a dead-end, says Tetzchner. Even XHTML, which "was better than HTML to the purist", was never going to fly, simply because it's not HTML. "The biggest growth now is in Opera Mobile," he adds. "Opera Mobile is a full browser, it can handle anything that the desktop can, but it downloads the full page."

He admits that the latter won't work for everyone, which is why Opera also offers Mini, a free download which relies on routing all its pages through servers in the network.

Oslo's data gannet

A software company running a server farm for a free browser? Sure, Tetzchner says.

"We have around 20 percent of Oslo's data traffic," he adds. "It's just a question of how we deal with handsets that are slow, and provide the best user experience.

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