Opera teams with Canal Plus on TV browser

It's a big break for upstart Web browser maker Opera Software A/S: the company's software will go into a new generation of digital set-top boxes for Internet surfing via television sets.

Opera has agreed to develop a browser to be used by Canal Plus Technologies SA, the digital TV software subsidiary of multimedia and utilities conglomerate Vivendi Universal SA. Under the terms of the deal, Canal Plus has contracted to use Opera's technology for the next five years, said Rolf Assev, vice president of sales and marketing at the Norwegian software company.

The browser for Canal Plus will be ready by the end of next year, he said. "They are committed to use our browser in all their machines, but it's also an opportunity here to go out to other set-top box vendors out there."

Opera has attracted a small but loyal following for its desktop browsers, which can be downloaded for free, or for US$39 in a version without banner advertising. But the company's real hope -- and the source of some 75 percent of its revenue -- is with Internet devices.

"Opera over the last three years has been focusing on Internet devices, smaller devices -- typically smart phones, Web pads, and PDAs (personal digital assistants). But when we saw last year that (third-generation wireless technology) UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) was going to be delayed, we started looking for more mature markets, and we saw that digital TV and the set-top box market is a more mature market."

The privately held company's technology is especially suited for compact devices like set-top boxes, said Assev.

"We have a very small and fast browser, and there is not too much memory in those boxes; in order to have an efficient browsing experience, you need a small and fast browser, and that's what Opera has always delivered. Our focus has always been to offer a small and fast browser, instead of adding a lot of extra features."

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