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Opera chief: Microsoft's IE 8 ‘undermines’ web standards

Silverlight a lesson in openness

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EU backing

Von Tetzchner supports an EU decision that would see Microsoft not just forced to support web standards, but also to distribute competitors to IE in Windows and through downloads. The company's consulted with the EU on a potential settlement around this, although von Tetzchner refused to provide details on Opera's discussions with regulators.

To prove his belief in the need for open standards and the need to compel Microsoft, von Tetzchner pointed to Microsoft's browser-based media-player plug in Silverlight, as an example of how Microsoft can drag its feet in areas that don't support its best interests.

Initially, Microsoft pushed off Silverlight on Linux. It did embrace the Silverlight plug-in to Firefox that — of course — runs on Windows in addition to Mac. Now, though, Silverlight is running on Linux thanks to the Novell-backed Moonlight project, led by Miguel de Icaza.

Microsoft has talked of putting Silverlight on mobile phones, but that market is fractured with different handsets while Microsoft has its own Windows mobile operating-system contender to things like Symbian, the iPhone, Android, and a host of vendor-specific operating systems. Without open standards, Microsoft can pick and chose where to put Silverlight in a mobile market where Opera's Mini browser has done very well.

"Just getting Silverlight on to Linux was a problem," von Tetzchner said. "What about getting it onto all those mobile phones and TVs — then it becomes: is this in Microsoft's interest do to so? The thing about open standards is, if someone doesn't think it's in their interest to do something, somebody else will."

Von Tetzchner noted that Opera is happy to integrate with Silverlight wherever it is.

In case you think this sounds like a case of the little company picking on a big, dumb IT giant in the perennially easy field of lack of support for web standards, von Tetzchner is also critical of the far smaller and consumer-focused Apple over the iPhone. The charge is similar — that Apple is hurting the competition and denying choice — but this battle is different. Instead of web standards, the subject is licensing.

Opera has built an internal version of its Mini browser running on the iPhone, but has been put off building the browser because of what's seen as Apple's restrictive licensing.

Von Tetzchner said the uncertainty surrounding Apple's license meant Opera could not justify the considerable amount of work it would take to port Opera Mini to the iPhone. The Mini runs on devices like the Blackberry, but lacks unique iPhone features like two-fingered touch.

"To put an effort into making it customized to work on the iPhone — that's a fair amount of work, and doing that at the risk of not getting distribution, that's pretty bad," von Tetzchner said.

"We've done a fair amount of work to make Opera Mini run well on the Blackberry, and we'd do the same thing for the iPhone." ®

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