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Opera seeks faster mobile browsing with £100m Skyfire acquisition

Opera Software has been busy of late. Just days after it announced a transition to Webkit, the company has also inked a $155 million (£100 million) deal to acquire Skyfire Labs.

Consumers might remember Skyfire as the makers of an app that let iPhone users watch Flash video on their iPhones back in 2010. But Opera is less interested in apps and more focused on Skyfire's Rocket Optimizer software and a feature known as Skyfire Horizon.

Rocket Optimizer allows carriers to move bandwidth-heavy operations like watching videos from their networks to the cloud. According to Opera, the service "provides mobile networks a 60 percent boost in capacity by reducing the size of video and other multimedia content as needed to fit the available bandwidth."

Skyfire detects poor connections and moves in within milliseconds, Opera said, reducing buffering, stalls, and long wait times on video and audio streams. As Skyfire itself claimed in 2008, consumers get annoyed with delays in as little as seven seconds.

Opera, meanwhile, takes a similar approach with its Mini browser. As PCMag noted in its review of Opera Mini for the iPad, "Opera Mini 7 isn't a real browser. In fact, it doesn't load Web pages at all. It's a proxy browser, which means pages are loaded and compressed at Opera's servers, and a lighter, lower-quality static version is sent to your device. Opera says Mini can reduce your data consumption by up to 90 percent."

Skyfire Horizon, meanwhile, is a mobile browser extension and toolbar intended to boost monetisation efforts through personalisation.

Opera said three large US mobile operators use Skyfire technology, while 10 other global operators are currently testing it out.

"Opera and Skyfire are a natural fit," Lars Boilesen, CEO of Opera Software, said in a statement. "Both companies have evolved far beyond their browser roots. Skyfire adds capabilities to our portfolio around video, app optimization, smartphones and tablets, and strength in North America. With video expected to consume over two-thirds of global mobile bandwidth by 2015, and as time spent on Android and iOS apps explodes, we are excited to extend Opera's solutions for operators."

"Opera practically invented cloud compression to improve mobile user experience, and the team at Skyfire is proud to join forces and advance cloud solutions together," said Jeffrey Glueck, CEO of Skyfire. "Opera's over 100 carrier relationships, global sales team, and delivery organization can accelerate the global commercialization of Skyfire's technology."

When the deal closes - expected in March - Glueck will remain CEO of Skyfire, but also become Opera's executive vice president of operator business. Skyfire will remain an independent subsidiary of Opera.

The firms said they expect to release a "powerful new set of joint products" in the coming year, including the expansion of Opera's Web Pass, which provides short-term data plans.