Opera Buys Skyfire and Rubs Hands in Glee Over Video Optimization Tech, Network Relationships

3 minute read
Barry Levine avatar

Opera Software, maker of Opera browser, has purchased Skyfire Labs, maker of the Skyfire mobile browser. Purchase price was US$ 155 million in cash and performance-related bonuses, and Opera’s aims include the acquisition of Skyfire’s video optimization technology and access to its position within mobile networks.

Skyfire’s Rocket Optimizer optimizes video for mobile delivery, leveraging cloud computing to better deliver video and other multimedia on increasingly crowded mobile networks. Its Horizon is a browser extension and toolbar platform that provides user personalization of a smartphone browser as well as advertising opportunities for carriers.

skyfire for ipad.png

The Skyfire browser for iPad.

60% Boost

The companies said that, on average, Rocket provides a 60% boost in capacity by reducing the size of the video. In addition, the technology can determine when a given user is facing poor delivery, and can intervene to minimize start times, rebuffering or stalls.

Skyfire said its apps have been downloaded more than 20 million times worldwide, and that three large U.S. carriers use Optimizer and Horizon. Trials are being conducted with another ten operators.

Opera CEO Lars Boilesen said in a statement that the two companies “are a natural fit.” He added that both companies “have evolved far beyond their browser roots,” and that Skyfire brings capabilities “around video, app optimization, smartphones and tablets,” as well as a foothold in North America.

Learning Opportunities

Carriers, Sales, Ads

Skyfire CEO Jeffrey Glueck praised Opera to news media for practically inventing “cloud compression to improve mobile user experience,” and said the company adds more than a hundred carrier relationships, a global sales team, an advertising unit and a delivery organization to Skyfire’s offering. Skyfire will continue as an independent, wholly-owned subsidiary of Opera. Glueck will become EVP for Operator Business at Opera and will remain CEO of Skyfire.

The companies said they expect to release a series of joint products, such as an expansion of Opera’s Web Pass service. Web Pass allows consumers to buy data plans in new ways, such as an unlimited day pass of apps and premium websites.

Even combined, the two companies do not approach the heft of Microsoft or Google, makers of the two of the three most popular browsers, and the third, Firefox, still has a strong and large base of users.

But the mobile browser space is ripe for disruption, especially given the boom in video over 3G and 4G networks and Skyfire’s position within mobile networks. In this kind of environment, efficiently optimized mobile video, innovative data plans and new forms of browser commercialization could shake things up.

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