Opera dives deeper into mobile content retail

Yesterday (19.09.2011) Opera announced that they had acquired the (worlds largest independend) app store provider Handster Inc.

Opera has since the launch of Opera Mobile Store been whitelabling Appia’s solution. For your information, Appia is the result of a 2010 merger between the large independent app stores Handango & PocketGear -providing a hosted whitelabel app store solution with content deals onboard.

I guess Opera’s recent move is based on the fact that Opera Mobile Store seems to be working and that they might as well cut out the “middle-man” and replicate Appia’s business model towards their operator partners rather than be a part of Appia’s value chain. In short they are gaining more control and keeping a larger portion of the revenues. Time will show if this store business works out, but I if I was Opera I would rather have used their digital distribution capability to link to stores rather than setting up a store themselves…

I would think that one of Opera’s main strategies is to get mobile users familiar with their browser and add-on services whilst on feature phones and hope that they will continue to use Opera services, the day they climb the device ladder and get a smartphone. This is crucial for Opera’s success because their differentiating factors are a lot smaller on the smartphone platforms where most phones actually have ok browsers (unless they want to end up concentrating their efforts around compression, not necessarily in combination with a browser).

But if one sees Opera right now, as mainly delivering value to feature phone customers (through the distribution and use of OperaMini) I am still a bit puzzled to if the app effect on smartphones really has created a renaissance for (Java ME) applications on feature phones. In my view, apps are still very much a smartphone thing (that’s why we needed some completly new mobile OSes (iOS, Android…) 3-4 years ago.) and there has been a huge developer drain from Java ME and other “feature phone” platforms to the prevailing smartphone platforms regarding creation of mobile content & services.

So Opera is betting hard on mobile content distribution, but they might have their feet in too deep in the feature phone market to be able to succeed…unless they manage to “re-invent” the mobile web for feature phone content & service creation (=web that looks and acts like native apps). -But if someone has the capabilites to push web to the next level on feature phones I would definitely have Opera on the top part of my list…

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