In a recent blog post, Doug Turner, the Minimo project leader writes about Opera's announcement that it would supply Thales with a browser for in-flight entertainment systems. The article he links to suggests that Opera "is shifting its focus to markets where it has an advantage over rivals like Firefox and IE", and he points out that it is a "hard place" where innovation takes a hit.
There are two points I would like to make in response to that:
1. Rather than shifting our focus, I would say that we are actually expanding into more markets. It is not like making Opera for Desktop completely free is a signal that we are abandoning or giving up on desktop browsers. Quite the opposite, in fact! I am not quite sure how one can come to the conclusion that a company which is expanding to cover new markets is shifting its focus, as long as the existing markets are still part of the company's business model. Indeed, Opera has been talking about "Opera for Verticals" on the main page since 2002! Opera aiming for this market is not news, people.
2. Regarding innovation, it is interesting to note how Minimo's features mostly seemed to exist in Opera Mobile first, although one almost gets the impression that it was Minimo that solved all these problems with mobile browsing, judging by the media coverage. As such, I would say that our track record when it comes to innovation isn't all that bad.
So is Opera becoming "more worried about the bottom line, than [it is] about innovating new features" now that we've got a nice deal with Thales for in-flight entertainment?
This isn't really a relevant question. There's no reason why these would have to be mutually exclusive.
When Mr. Turner says that "Minimo is focused on creating a great browser for the users of cell phones and PDA's without external deadlines, requirements, or politics", I wouldn't doubt this for a second. I am sure they want to create a great browser. But so do we! And at the same time, we can actually deliver real products to real customers, as specified by the customer requirements. There is nothing saying that it has to be either or. As is the case with the non-shift in focus I wrote about above, this is another case where you can actually do several projects, and even do research and prototype new technologies in addition to that.
Opera is still a small company, but we are actually able to deliver the best mobile browser on the market to real customers, and at the same time continue to do work on the browser of the future. Maybe some cannot manage to do this, but we certainly can. (As an example, Merlin has been in development alongside earlier versions for quite some time.)
As a sidenote, I don't think I ever heard an explanation from Mr. Turner about what he meant when he said that "we can be ported to many platforms that Opera can't". I am still puzzled to see that Opera is available for a lot more mobile platforms than Minimo, when it is apparently not as portable 😉