No Opera on the iPhone? Bad News.

By  |  Thursday, October 30, 2008 at 10:30 pm

The New York Times’ Saul Hansell has published a piece on browser company Opera, and the biggest news it contains is a passing reference halfway through the story: Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner says that the company has developed a version of Opera for the iPhone, but Apple has refused to distribute it on the ground that it competes with its own Safari. It’s the latest of multiple examples of Apple nixing competitive apps that’s come to light.

Daring Fireball’s John Gruber has pointed out that this instance may be different from others: If Opera’s browser includes its own JavaScript engine, it violates the agreement that iPhone developers sign, which states that new JavaScript engines other than Apple’s own are verboten. (Other competitive apps that have been banned don’t seem to have violated the agreement.)

I don’t find that particularly consoling. On what grounds is Apple restricting the ability of other software companies to provide alternatives to its own software? Is there any scenario under which it’s better for iPhone users that there be only one JavaScript engine on the iPhone (and therefore effectively only one browser)? Microsoft famously got in legal hot water when it tried to crush the already-successful Netscape Navigator; if Apple won’t let competitive browsers onto the iPhone in the first place, isn’t that much worse?

It is, most likely, the principle of the thing that matters here: Safari is a darn good browser, and I have no reason to think that Opera has come up with something superior. It deserves to have the chance to try, though. And we iPhone owners deserve to be the folks who judge its worth.

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again: I still can’t tell whether the iPhone will turn out to be the most exciting new computing platform since the original Mac, or a fancy but fundamentally hobbled walled garden. But at this point, I’m hungry for scraps of evidence to prove that the latter scenario isn’t the more likely one.

 
24 Comments


Read more: , ,

22 Comments For This Post

  1. Faustin Says:

    Web browsers are not just simple games, they are some of the most vulnerable pieces of software that can be written. Opera iphone presumably brings along with it all the potential exploits of the desktop if not a complete new set. I think apple has enough to do keeping mobile safari secure. I don’t think they should be worrying about someone else’s browser just so we can all play around with it.

  2. dosequis Says:

    Apple’s anti-competitive behavior could come back to hurt it eventually. Innovation cannot thrive without the competition. I hear what Faustin is saying, but the way that the iPhone is sandboxed, I don’t think Apple would have much to worry about. They put an app kill switch in to the phone for apps that can be exploited and an exploit in the Opera browser would be the perfect justification for it. Plus, the exploits would not exist unless there was a large demand for an alternative browser, which to this point isn’t even true on desktops.

    I think that Apple just wants to be careful about their platform and not open everything up all at once. An open iPhone can take away from the smooth operation and sleek interface of the device, so I believe that they want to be cautious when allowing changes to be made to the most consumer friendly smartphone out there.

    I would like to see Opera release it among the jailbreak community, I’m sure many geeks would like to try it.

  3. OS11 Says:

    It’s all about consistency, so having key Apps like a Browser, Address Book, actual Phone app, and a few others… it’s very important to for those be “in-house” apps since integration is key to having the best user experience.

    Nobody wants to repeat the massive mistake that became Windows and WinMobile, so Apple is taking the right approach even though it upsets a few non-important developers.

  4. Michael Says:

    Why is a big dealbreaker, end of iPhone dominance, world is over, hysteria when Apple restricts what you can do on their phone but when Motorola, RIM, Verizon, AT&T, or anybody else does, it’s just a sob story and the way people do business? These articles are retarded. If you have even been paying attention to how development on the iPhone has been playing out, you would realize that it has ALLWAYS been a walled garden and never the hand-held general purpose touch screen computer that we think it ought to be. The line between computer and consumer electronics device is drawn by Apple with a thin, but clear, line.

  5. Sebhelyesfarku Says:

    Dumbass Mactards and fashion lemmings will buy the iPhone anyways.

  6. don maximo Says:

    Apple is somehow in the wrong because it didn’t allow Opera on its phone?

    Get real people. If YOU built a phone, is it wrong for YOU to decide what YOU want on it?

    Let Opera build its own phone!

    Apple is a business…NOT the Town Hall.

    Apple should do whatever it wants with ITS phone. People will not be happy with Apple unless Apple coddles everyone and everything just to look altruistic.

    Get a grip people. It’s only business.

  7. Darren Says:

    First off… who cares, Opera isn’t that great :P Secondly, the rumor is that Apple approached Opera to build the default web browser for the iPhone. Opera didn’t want to be tied to one handset manufacturer, Apple walked and built Safari instead. So now that the iPhone is the highest selling phone on the planet, Opera wants a piece of the pie. Too bad, they had their opportunity and Steve doesn’t forgive/forget…

  8. sigher Says:

    Faustin: “Opera iphone presumably brings along with it all the potential exploits of the desktop if not a complete new set.”

    Nope. Opera Mini is totally locked down. It might not even have file system access. Remember, it’s a “thin client”. If any exploits are to take place, they would have to be done on Opera’s servers since that’s where all the processing takes place.

    OS11: “all about consistency”

    Opera Mini doesn’t have to replace Safari in the menus.

    Darren: You apparently don’t know anything about Opera. Opera’s philisophy is to be available on as many different platforms as possible. Of course they were going to turn down Apple when they demanded exclusivity. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to be on Apple products at all! Try to use your brain, eh?

    Oh, and Opera is preinstalled on several phones that sell much better than the iPhone, so… Never mind. Facts don’t bite when it comes to Apple fanboys.

  9. zato Says:

    Harry, don’t you have more productive things you could be doing than playing the Apple “control freak” card?

    Isn’t there some 12 year old internet mischief maker somewhere with another Steve Jobs health scare story that you can use to kill a few billion worth Apple stock value?

    Wouldn’t that be a much better use of your time than just killing a few dozen iPhone sales with this Opera browser story that only virgin nerds and Microsoft gamer/haters will get worked up about.

  10. jeff Says:

    I don’t understand what is ‘anticompetitive’ about this. Safari is a standard compliant browser. Why do they have to allow Opera on their platform? Does Chrysler HAVE to allow Ford Engines in their cars as a supported after market add-on?

    Opera likely won’t make money on an iPhone implementation (why pay for this?), and if there are opera only websites, then we have a standard compliance issue, not an anticompetitive issue.

  11. Snafu Says:

    Having a web browser be standards-compliant is just half the story about what it is to like or dislike about it. For example, Chrome is as WebKit-based as Safari, but its functionality is quite different. Opera has lots of experience developing mobile web browsers, so there could be pleasant surprises in its iPhone implementation. That’s why choice is important.

    I think consistency or confusion here is not an issue: as long as Apple’s primary iPhone apps are in the main slots, no user could confuse them with any additional app, as much as it can reproduce their functionality.

    Probably this is just about some Apple-Google arrangement about Safari and that search field royalties. :D

  12. John Says:

    Come on I have Opera Mobile on my Windows mobile device. Its better than windows mobile explorer but it still sucks. I’m not some apple fan boy but Safari on my iPod touch is so much better.

  13. thehumanyawn Says:

    I’d love to see an alternative browser for the iPhone, that might be the only way to get Flash on the iPhone

  14. Joe Anonymous Says:

    Why would I want to use a browser written by a company that’s not even smart enough to read the SDK rules before spending money on development?

  15. AC Says:

    iPhone users aren’t smart enough to understand the value of Opera anyway…

  16. Roger Says:

    Faustin has is down correctly “I think apple has enough to do keeping mobile safari secure.”. This is the whole point of a “walled garden”, you get to secure a platform. It is hard to have your cake and eat it to. You will get the chance to get a gPhone if you think the iPhone limits you choices too much. There are a lot of things Apple is doing or not doing that seem off or strange. At this point I am willing to think that Apple has GOOD reasons. The lack of things like voice dialing and copy paste could not hold some diabolical purpose for Apple; yet they are not present and are much more important than another browser. In some things choice is over rated.

  17. James Katt Says:

    The average iPhone user is much smarter than the user of other phones.
    And you have to be wealthy enough to afford one.

    Apple clearly states the limitations on what it will allow on the App Store.
    If you want more than what Apple allows, you will simply have to jailbreak your iPhone so you can install other software.

    Opera CLEARLY breaks Apple’s rules. It runs code. This is an absolute disqualification. Duh to the developers of Opera.

    Good riddance.

    And by the way, Flash also runs code. It, obviously, also will not be allowed on the iPhone.

  18. Randall Says:

    I wrote this up a few weeks ago on Obsessable, but basically Apple is setting itself up for failure again. Mac vs Windows is the same thing as iPhone vs Android.

    Openness wins.

  19. Herod Says:

    Luckily – this is against EU’s anti-monopoly law and Apple will face a long and costly legal battle, which they will inevitably lose. At least in Europe. By the way, can any of you imagine Bill Gates saying “Look, you can’t install Opera on WindowsXP because it competes with my Internet Exlorer”? :D :D :D ROTFL!

  20. Faustin Says:

    sigher said “Oh, and Opera is preinstalled on several phones that sell much better than the iPhone, so… Never mind. Facts don’t bite when it comes to Apple fanboys.”

    Name these phones that are selling better than the iPhone. As far as I can tell the iPhone is the #2 most selling handset ever and quickly dominated the mobile browsing market, even when there was an edge only version. Apple may not sell as many phones as nokia, but their one model sells more than any of nokia’s models. Look I am a mactard and am open minded. Your point about Opera being a thin-client was well received. I wish you too could be open minded to facts; Apple fanboys actually have brains and do use them.

  21. sigher Says:

    James Katt: “Opera CLEARLY breaks Apple’s rules. It runs code.”

    Nope. With Opera Mini, everything is done on the server. The thin client you have on your phone basically shows a “picture” of what the server did.

    Faustin: “As far as I can tell the iPhone is the #2 most selling handset ever”

    Nope.

  22. sigher Says:

    James Katt wrote: “Opera CLEARLY breaks Apple’s rules. It runs code.”

    Nope. With Opera Mini, everything is done on the server. The thin client you have on your phone basically shows a “picture” of what the server did.

    Faustin wrote: “As far as I can tell the iPhone is the #2 most selling handset ever”

    Nope.

    Apple fanboys. Sigh. The thing with fanboys is that they don’t use their brains.

2 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Opera Mini on the iPhone? Good Luck (and I Mean That Sincerely) Says:

    [...] all: News Norwegian browser company Opera, which has been talking about an iPhone version since 2008, is no longer just talking. It says that it will demonstrate an iPhone edition of its Opera Mini [...]

  2. Opera Mini on the iPhone? Good Luck (and I Mean That Sincerely) | NoiseBlogger - A Dynamic, Upto Date, Revolutionary News Blog Says:

    [...] browser company Opera, which has been talking about an iPhone version since 2008, is no longer just talking. It says that it will demonstrate an iPhone edition of its Opera Mini [...]