Ina Fried

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With Appia deal, Browser Maker Opera Hops On App Store Train

Aiming to leverage its browser to sell apps, Opera said on Monday that it has signed a three-year deal with Appia to power an Opera-branded mobile Web store.

With the deal, the Norwegian browser maker is opening a store that will serve up apps to Android, BlackBerry, Symbian and Java users via the Opera Mobile and Opera Mini browsers.

Opera said that the store will be available via a “speed dial” button on its own browser, which it says is installed on 100 million phones. The store should also work on rival browsers, though.

“The launch of the Opera Mobile Store supports Opera’s core belief in an open, cross-platform mobile Internet experience by providing Opera users with an integrated storefront of mobile applications,” Opera Executive Vice President Mahi de Silva said in a statement. The company has been testing the store and said that during February the store attracted 15 million users from 200 countries and provided more than 700,000 downloads per day.

The browser detects a user’s country and phone type, serving up apps of the appropriate flavor and offering information in the proper language and sales in the correct currency.

The company said its store will be able to offer free and paid apps for “virtually all” mobile platforms. However, Apple’s iPhone and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 both require applications to be delivered directly through their storefronts, so perhaps there is a different meaning for “virtually all” in Norwegian.

Opera is just the latest company looking to get in on the app store trend. Just this morning, I looked at Mobilewalla, one of many startups in this area. Unlike Mobilewalla, Opera already has an in, given that its mobile browser is already installed on a considerable number of mobile phones. (Unlike on the desktop, where IE, Firefox and Chrome rule the roost, Opera has a significant presence on mobile devices.)

While new entrants are piling into the app store space, many of the native app stores have been working to expand their search abilities, while existing third party discovery engines, such as GetJar, are expanding into new areas.