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Tuesday, August 31, 2004
For Windows, Opera takes requests

When it comes to Microsoft's mobile phone software, Opera is singing a new tune.

A year and a half after it vowed never to produce a browser that worked with Microsoft's operating system for mobile devices, browser maker Opera Software on Monday said it would do just that, citing unusually high demand for the software from makers of cell phones.

"We're going back on that because our customers are asking for it," said Rolf Assev, executive vice president for business development, marketing and strategic alliance from Opera's headquarters in Oslo. "Now is the first time that we see a demand for Microsoft from the operators and from the handset manufacturers."

Assev attributed new demand for Microsoft-compatible browsing software in part to Windows Mobile's appeal to makers of high-end phones, which make up a small but profitable part of the cell phone market.

A study performed this year by market research firm Canalys found Microsoft had a mere 4 percent of the smart phone market for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. That market remains dominated by the Symbian operating system, found on 94 percent of smart phones.

Microsoft did not return calls.

The Norwegian software maker declined to say which handset manufacturers had asked for a Microsoft port, but said at least three major companies had requested a Windows version, but had not previously asked for one.

Opera has sustained itself selling browsers amid Microsoft's dominance of that market by focusing on cell phones. It also markets a desktop browser that has a small but loyal following among those who dislike Internet Explorer, Microsoft's market-leading browser.

The Oslo company has maintained a contentious relationship with Microsoft, sparring repeatedly over compatibility issues between its browser and Microsoft's Web sites.

In May, Microsoft settled Opera's claims with a $12.75 million payment.

Assev said Opera's decision was unrelated to any detente between the two companies, and said the company had received only technical and not financial support from Microsoft in preparing the new version.


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