Opera will switch from offering Yahoo! to using Google as its default search engine. While Yahoo! has its own relatively sophisticated mobile offerings, the company can't be happy to lose Opera to Google. Update: Yahoo! emailed to tell us that "Yahoo! has elected not to continue its mobile search partnership with Opera at this time." Interesting!Starting on the first of next month, the widely popular mobile browser
Presumably there's some money changing hands and we can't help but wonder how much. It's Google's payment to Mozilla for being the default search engine in Firefox that makes that browser financially viable.
What mobile money means
Some people say (only partly in jest) that Google does in fact own a browser - Firefox. Have deals gone on behind the scenes than mean Google now effectively owns a mobile browser too? These up-front payments for default placement are later more than made up for through search ad click throughs - and mobile is a key emerging market in search advertising.
In this case there is probably not a major shift in power going on over Opera, since the company has what should be a major revenue stream in the sale of browser installs themselves. For some reason, people are willing to pay for a better mobile browser despite widespread insistence that web and desktop software should be free. A large portion of Opera customers are Europeans, though, so perhaps that explains it.
None the less, it was probably seen at Google as a major coup to score this deal and they may have been willing to spend a lot of money on it. If Safari on the iPhone is the elite upper class mobile browser, Opera is the browser of the growing middle class in that space.
Opera users in general tend to be vehement advocates of the browser. While Firefox users will sometimes go to the trouble of telling you how much they like their browser, the smaller number of Opera fans are much more outspoken. I could comfortably hold my breath between putting up this post and the time that it will take for an Opera lover to post a comment about how wonderful this fast, standards compliant browser is on the desktop and the phone. (Please don't prove me wrong.)
For more informed coverage of this news see the blog of mobile search specialists MSearchGroove, where presumably it will be covered soon. Readers interested in mobile news should check out the RWW toolkit for 2008, a package of resources for tracking key issues like mobile in the coming year.