Funny how people react when Opera announces their browser become free and ad-free. They say hurray but don't detail the reasons why they can say hurray. So here are my personal thoughts about it:
- Opera's model is successful on portable devices. It's so successful that the revenue stream coming from portable devices is probably VERY significantly higher than the revenue stream coming from the PC/Mac/unix world. It's probably so much higher than the latter is negligible.
- Maintaining a non-free version of Opera for win/mac/linux costs probably too much compared to what it brings in... Same thing for ads.
- Opera probably wants to focus even more on OEM. So all paying win/mac/linux end users - who have access to support and other services - are a pain since it uses some workforce.
- buzz is good, and that buzz is cheap...
- Use it for free on win/mac/linux, get addicted, and pay for it on your mobile phone... And there are much more mobile phones than computers out there.
In other words, it just means Opera's core business is mobile, mobile and mobile. Its future is mobile, mobile and mobile again. The rest is futile.
All the rest? Welllllll... Håkon, if you read this, I think Opera should of course keep its win/mac/linux core engine private, but open-source its chrome.
Update: answer by Jonny Axelsson, from Opera's engineering team. He is also member of a few W3C Working Groups. Jonny's prose could let the reader believe I said Opera on desktop is a center of loss. I never said that. The 2005 and 2006 financial expectations from the mobile world are also proabbly MUCH higher than what can opera for the desktop ever bring in. Speaking of platforms, no, they are not so alike. Mozillians know this very well, with the Mac users complaining that Mozilla apps on Mac don't have the real look and feel of Mac apps. Anyway. I reaffirm what I said above: the core should remain private and the chrome become open-source.