Opera Software today launched a new mobile browser dubbed Touch and upgraded its desktop browser so that the two can better stay in sync.
The Oslo-based browser maker rolled out Opera Touch, an Android application that features one-hand operation and focuses on search, with the latter dominating the screen as users launch Touch.
"The current browsers are not doing their job properly," argued Maciej Kocemba, an Opera product manager, during an early-Wednesday live-streamed launch event that was made available later as a recording. He then showed how designers had cast the browser's UI (user interface) so that buttons and functions, including search and tabs, are all within reach of the user's thumb.
"Unlike in most other browsers, you can now more easily browse and search the web when on the move," Kocemba added in an accompanying Wednesday post to the company's blog.
At the same time, Opera updated its desktop browser - editions are available for Windows, macOS and Linux - to also emphasize search. A new tool, called "Instant Search," opens with a press of the Alt-space key combination (on Windows and Linux) or Option-space (macOS). A search field opens, accepts input and then the screen displays results, all atop the current web page so users don't have to backtrack after a successful search.
The same tool also lets users search through all open tabs with a toggle of - yes, the Tab key - a godsend for those who love to crowd the browser with tons of tabs.
But when the mobile and desktop versions are paired, said Opera, they're more than the sum of their parts. "In Opera Touch, setting up the connection between your smartphone and your desktop browser takes only one step," according to a statement quoting Kocemba on the new browser-to-browser sync.
While other browsers have long had tab and history synchronization between their mobile and desktop editions - Safari does, Chrome does, so does Firefox - so that open tabs, say, on an iPhone would be replicated on a Windows personal computer, Opera on Wednesday trumpeted the feature as if it were brand new.
"[You just] scan a QR to sync," Kocemba said during his on-stage demonstration. "Point, scan and it's done."
He was referring to the lack of a cross-platform account, which Opera foreswears, but rivals rely on. To sync Chrome on a smartphone with Chrome on the desktop, for example, the user must be logged into his or her Google account on both devices. Opera instead links the mobile and desktop browser when the smartphone does its one-time scan of the QR code displayed on the PC or Mac.
But Opera's efforts are unlikely to yank its browsers out of the share cellar.
Last month, Opera on the desktop accounted for just 1.5% of the browsers used to access the Internet, according to analytics vendor Net Applications. In mobile, Opera's user share - an estimate of the percentage of Internet users who ran the browser during March - was an even more dismal 0.3%, or about 1 out of every 300 people. Chrome, in comparison, controlled a 62% share on the desktop and 65% on mobile.
And Opera's latest numbers were lower than 12 months prior: In March 2017, the browser accounted for 2% of all those on the desktop. (On the mobile front, Opera's share was virtually the same a year ago.)
It's unrealistic to think that a UI revamp - interesting though it may be - and a catch-up to competitors on the desktop will prove sufficient to juice Opera's use, thus its share and so its revenue. (Like other browser makers without a search engine of their own, browser revenue at Opera has historically come from money paid by a search vendor for default placement rights.)