Opera started its life as Windows-only browser. As time passed by it became apparent that there was a demand for browsers on other desktop platforms, so "Project Magic" was set in motion to port Opera to Linux and Mac.
But Opera also saw that browsers didn't just have to be limited to personal computers, so a mobile version of Opera was born.
During the first few years, desktop revenues dwarfed those of the mobile versions of Opera, but eventually it turned out that Opera's vision of a Web widely available on non-PC devices was becoming true. It was a vision some people even ridiculed Opera for at the time, but soon the revenues from non-PC devices overtook Opera Desktop, especially as the market changed and more competitors came around.
From having funded the development of other versions in the early days, the desktop version of Opera soon saw itself in danger of being in need of funding itself. It was in danger of becoming a drain on Opera Software's resources.
The story does not end here, however.
Faced with falling revenues on desktop, Opera's management decided to make a radical step to a new business model. Having started as a pay-only browser and moving to an ad supported revenue model with Opera 5, the decision to take the competition head-on and release Opera for free was made.
The move was not without it risks. Licenses and ads were two major income source. Would the search revenue ever be able to make up for the lost licens and ad revenues? Opera Software was clearly going to have to make a lot of investments in other business areas too, so one risked losing too much money.
Predictably, the desktop revenues took a nosedive when Opera was released for free. However, the management insisted that this would only be temporary, and that this would bring more users to Opera, and thus result in revenues from searches that would be higher than the lost ad and license revenues.
Would Opera be able to reverse the trend? Would we be forced to abandon the desktop version? With financial losses due to heavy investments in most quarters (financial results are presented quarterly), would Opera be forced to make the tough decision to cut its losses?
Let's look back to the financial results for the first quarter of 2007:
- Total revenues: 65.4 million NOK
- Desktop revenue: 14.8 million NOK
As you can see, the desktop makes up about a quarter of the total revenues! One does not throw away 1/4 of one's revenue.
As for how the income has developed, desktop revenue was up a massive 142 per cent in the first quarter or 2007 compared to 2006. This is, among other things, due to a growth in the number of Opera Desktop users. Just about every single user will lead to more income, so the desktop business model is definitely scalable. The more the merrier, as they say!
Today, the desktop team, the people working on the desktop browser, is bigger than ever. Significant resources have been added in the form of both developers and QA personnel. We are also investing in marketing. And in addition to updating Opera 9 when necessary, work has been going on for a long time on the version that will replace Opera 9. Just because there isn't much happening with Opera 9.2 doesn't mean that nothing is happening behind the scenes.
The moral of this story is this:
Opera will not abandon its desktop browser. It does not make financial sense to do so. Furthermore, the desktop version cements Opera's unique cross-platform position. It is of strategic importance to the company.
And let's not forget the community. All of you out there. You are mainly desktop users, and you are putting our technologies to wide use and providing us with invaluable feedback, and you help us make Opera better.
The reason I'm writing this is that I keep reading comments about why we keep our desktop browser alive.
Surely we could just ditch it and focus on the areas where we make the most money, right?
Opera will not abandon its desktop browser. It's just not going to happen. Please stop asking if it is going to happen 🙂