Opera CEO: Major US carrier deal imminent

Opera Mini will have broad distribution in U.S. through a deal bigger than current ones with Sprint and Virgin Mobile USA

The Opera Mini browser will soon have widespread distribution on mobile handsets in the U.S., according to the company's chief executive.

At the CTIA Wireless conference earlier this year, Opera unveiled deals to make its Opera Mini browser available for handsets from Virgin Mobile USA and preloaded on one from Sprint. Disappointed observers had expected a deal that would bring the browser -- which is extremely popular with mobile users in Europe and Asia -- to many more users in the U.S. market.

That large carrier deal people have been expecting is imminent, Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner promised in a recent interview. "We are working ... to provide an Opera Mini-based solution with a major operator in the U.S.," he said, adding that it's bigger than Opera's deals with Virgin and Sprint.

However, the new deal, being facilitated through a partnership with Motricity and which should be announced in the next two weeks, may not carry the Opera branding, although it will be powered by the Opera Mini browser, said Opera spokesman Ted Miller. He added that the deal is entirely dependent on the carrier, so he could not provide a specific date.

Motricity provides a platform to deliver mobile content on handsets from wireless carriers including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile in the U.S. Tetzchner said it is the first time Opera is working with Motricity to provide Opera Mini on mobile handsets.

Opera Mini-based browsing software will come preloaded on handsets as part of the forthcoming deal, which also will offer "much wider distribution" than either the Virgin or Sprint deals, Miller said.

Tetzchner said the deal is part of a push Opera is making to bring its mobile browser to the U.S. market not only on wireless handsets, but also televisions, set-top boxes and automobiles. "I do believe things are about to change in the U.S.," he said.

The Opera Mini, a free mobile Web browser that delivers the same experience as Opera's desktop browser, currently comes preloaded on more than 250 mobile handsets from 45 carriers, but most of those are through deals outside the U.S.

Opera has gained a higher profile in the U.S. not only from its browser but also because of its involvement in an ongoing European Union antitrust case against Microsoft over bundling the Internet Explorer browser in Windows. As a result of Opera's bringing the case against Microsoft in Europe, one U.S.-based Microsoft user group, the JCXP group, called for a boycott of Opera's software.

A proposed remedy in the E.U. case to include other browser options in addition to IE in the soon-to-be-released Windows 7 led Microsoft to announce plans to pull IE out of the OS in Europe. Tetzchner has denounced the move as an attempt by Microsoft to control the outcome of the case and continue to use its OS monopoly to dominate the browser market.

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