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Rumor Mill: Acquisition Time? Is Google Going To The Opera (Browser)?

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I'm not one for spreading rumors but sometimes...? Feel like a hot one? OK, we've got one or should I say Dirson has one. What is it? Google is going to acquire Opera. That's right, the wonderful and powerful Opera browser from Norway (Opera Software ASA to be precise) might become Google's latest acquisition.

In addition to offering a traditional web browser, Opera also plays very hard in the mobile browser space. Might the acquisition be Google's holiday present to itself? I haven't heard anything other than what Dirson reports.

Ok, now to the source of what's going to be getting lots of blogosphere buzz in the coming hours. Dirson's New Google Blog links to a French language blog by Pierre Chappaz (former president of Yahoo! Europe), says that the acquisition is going down but to use the terms given in Google's mechanical translation of the post, this info needs to be "taken with precaution." That's one of the things that make it a rumor. If you don't read French and want it translated (CAVEAT EMPTOR) here's a mechanical translation from Google and from other sources.

I've asked Google for a comment and will post if/when one is received.

The Opera browser, once fee-based, if you wanted banner ads powered by Google removed, became totally free with no banner ads in September. You can still purchase premium support.

Talk about Google and a Google browser (aka GBrowser) goes back a long time. In recent months Google has not only recruited several key people from the Mozilla Foundation (the Firefox people) but is still looking for more Firefox engineeers. Also, Danny's post: Googlebar For Firefox, Plus The Google & Firefox Deal, reports on a "business relationship alongside Firefox."

Though she [Google's Marissa Mayer] didn't reveal specific terms, she said it encompassed a variety of things, such as hosting the Firefox start up page (which will increasingly grow in traffic and bandwidth demands) plus distribution gains for Google by being a favorite in the browser.

So, needless to say Google and Firfox/Mozilla Foundation are very close.

Speculation: As I mentioned earlier, Opera is a key browser in the mobile space so that might be an excellent reason for an acquisition plus it takes it off the market and keeps it from another company (take your pick, nane your reason) from acquiring what in my opinion is a wonderful and constantly improving tool. You've got to wonder if Opera's removal of Google ads, making the product free, and an acquisition by Google are all related? According to Om Malik, it was Google that helped to make Opera free. Huh?

Om writes in a September post:

I found out that the decision to give away the browser came after the company struck ?compensation deals? with some of the search engines. Apparently, the premier tenant for browser?s built-in search window, is Google. ?The current most important deal now is with Google,? company spokesperson Eskil Siversten wrote in an email. The company indicated that it has similar referral-for-dollars agreements with the likes of eBay and Amazon.

Last February, Google Maps became usable on the Opera browser.

I use Opera all the time (I even paid for it) and will admit to being a bit sentimental about it. Why? The first article I ever had published was a review of Opera in Online Magazine back in 1998. It was titled, The Little Browser that Can."

Stay tuned.

Postscript: Google said it had no comment on the "rumors and speculation" about Opera.

Postscript 2 (Thursday, December 15th): Reuters is reporting that the CFO of Opera says his company is NOT in talks with Google (or any other company) about an acquisition.

Christian Jebsen, Opera's Chief Financial Officer told Reuters, "We have heard the rumours but know nothing more about this."


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