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Opera Working on New Desktop Browser Amid Company Sale

Even though "it is easier to get 1,000 new users in India or Indonesia than to get my neighbor next door in Oslo to use Opera," says the CEO.

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Norwegian browser maker Opera, which is in the process of selling itself to a consortium of Chinese mobile companies for $1.2 billion, is looking to get back into the desktop browser game.

Opera got its start on the PC in the mid-1990s, but has seen its greatest success as a maker of lightweight browsers for mobile phones.

And while that mobile browser is probably what sold the Chinese buyers on the company, CTO Hakon Wium Lie is hard at work on a new desktop browser that will come out later this year.

Lie acknowledged, though, that winning over PC users in developed countries is a lot harder than getting new phone browser users in emerging markets.

“It is easier to get 1000 new users in India or Indonesia than to get my neighbor next door in Oslo to use Opera,” Lie said in a joint interview with CEO Lars Boilesen at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Boilesen said that the Chinese companies are also keen on expanding Opera’s other efforts, including its compression software, app store and Opera Mediaworks advertising business.

Boilesen, who was employee No. 16 at Opera, said he is glad that the company did not fall into the hands of a private equity company just looking to streamline and sell it for a profit a couple years later.

“That’s not interesting for us,” he said.

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