Opera launches new media, file sharing service
Tuesday, Jun 16, 2009 11:18AM UTC
By Tarmo Virki, European technology correspondent
HELSINKI (Reuters) - Norway's Opera Software opened a new, free service on Tuesday that enables simple sharing of personal computers' pictures, files or music with anyone on the Internet.
The new service, which the company has said would "reinvent the Web" is part of Opera's Web browser, enables direct downloading from personal computer to personal computer and removes any need for data storage at servers in the middle. Files can be viewed with any browser.
Similar technologies have been available before for tech-savvy consumers, but these have required downloading separate software, paying usage fees, or a long process of uploading content -- limiting take-up of the services.
On Thursday last week, Opera posted a note on social networking website Twitter with a link to a Web page saying Opera would "reinvent the Web" on June 16.
That heralding of the new service had helped Opera's share price surge in the past week, although it fell back slightly on Tuesday as the market digested the announcement.
"There were some expectations ahead of the announcement, so the market is only mildly disappointed, said analyst Peder Strand at SEB Enskilda
Strand added, however, that the new service looked innovative and could become an important product differentiator for Opera's browser.
Shares in Opera were down 2.7 percent by 1028 GMT, underperforming the Oslo bourse's 0.8 percent rise and a 1.1 percent rise for European technology shares.
In spite of the early fall, the stock is still up over 12 percent in the last week, at close to a three-year high, giving it a market capitalization of about $544 million.
Opera has built some sharing services for photos and media into the browser but has also opened up the platform for any developers to build their own sharing services.
"We believe it is the revolution of the Internet. We see this as a disruptive technology for Internet services in the next one to five years," Phillip Gronvold, product analyst at Opera, told Reuters.
Opera is the world's third-largest browser maker with about 40 million users, but is far behind Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Mozilla Foundation's Firefox.
"We hope to increase our desktop penetration with this service," Gronvold said. "We feel there's significant time-to-market benefits in browser space."
Internet Explorer is used for about 60 percent of global Internet traffic, Firefox has about 30 percent, and Opera is at 4 percent -- just ahead of Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari, according to Web analytics firm StatCounter.
Microsoft has run afoul of U.S. and European antitrust regulators for bundling its desktop browser with its operating system, which Opera, Mozilla and Google say is an attempt to drive them out of the market.
Microsoft said last week it plans to ship the newest version of its Windows operating system in Europe without Internet Explorer browser.
Microsoft's move could be a boon for rivals, but Opera has said this was not enough to restore competition.
Opera has a small share of the desktop browser market, but its mobile browser is the most widely used browser on handsets.
"Opera today makes around 4 crowns ($0.62) a year per desktop user on average," analyst Peder Strand at SEB Enskilda said.
"If they double the number of users on the back of this product, it would be a huge success that will have a material financial impact for Opera," Strand said.
"However, whether we can expect such a doubling of the customer base, has yet to bee seen," he added.
Gronvold said Opera was working also on a mobile version of Unite, but has not decided on a launch schedule.
(Reporting by Tarmo Virki; additional reporting by Richard Solem in Oslo; editing by Simon Jessop)