Why would anyone want to buy Opera?

So now it’s Microsoft that’s supposedly going to buy Opera, everybody’s second favourite alternative browser (next to Firefox, of course). Not that long ago, Google was reported to be the one looking at buying the company. Of course, Google was supposed to buy Riya too, but that never happened.

This one could wind up in the “nice rumour, shame about the facts” file as well. A spokesman for Opera says there is no truth to the rumour, and while companies often deny things that eventually turn out to be true, the denial wasn’t one of those weaselly “we can’t comment” denials – it was a flat-out “no way it’s happening,” kind of denial.

Could Microsoft be looking at acquiring Opera? Sure it could. After all, buying the company would probably cost about what Microsoft generates in free cash flow every half an hour or so. But why? Opera has about 1 per cent of the browser market, which makes Firefox look like a giant. It’s not a bad browser, but all the things that make it special – including the tabs and other doo-dads, as well as the stripped-down mobile version – are fairly easy to duplicate.

So the question is, why buy the company? Any goodwill that Opera has developed in the browser market would be annihilated by a Microsoft acquisition, so that’s worthless. The browser is free (thanks to a deal with Google). In fact, the Google rumour made way more sense, since Google doesn’t currently have a browser. Of course, that doesn’t mean Microsoft won’t buy Opera anyway – it just means I don’t think it makes much sense. My friend Paul Kedrosky says it makes as Microsoft “buying a lavender farm.”

6 thoughts on “Why would anyone want to buy Opera?

  1. Pingback: Mark Evans :: Main Page

  2. Nice try, Chris — but it still doesn’t work for me. I’m not sure Opera’s developers are any better than anyone else’s — several versions of their browser have seemed buggy and somewhat slow to me, although I’m not a programmer, just a user. As for the mobile browser, that part can hardly be rocket science. In any case, why not just license it, and plaster Microsoft links and search and so on everywere? If Opera is willing to be commercial, they would jump at the chance.

  3. Mobile browsing *is* difficult to do well because of the requirements to handle tag-soup “HTML” (including nested tables) standards-compliant (X)HTML, JavaScript and Java applets, images, multimedia, and conflicting CSS (including the handheld media type). If it actually weren’t rocket science, IE for Pocket PC wouldn’t stink. It is actually a seriously vexing problem, at least among those who know something about it as opposed to those who merely toss presumptions around.

  4. Just to confirm Joe Clark in saying that building the sort of tabbed browsing control (much more flexible than FF 1.0; 1.5 is closer) available in Opera, or especially its mobile browsing work is no simple task. No need to degrade it.

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