CEO Shuffle at Opera Comes at a Critical Time

Jon von Tetzchner

Opera Software has named Lars Boilesen as the company’s new CEO, replacing Jon S. von Tetzchner, who co-founded the Norwegian company in 1995 and has served as its head ever since. Opera will retain von Tetzchner for strategic help, but the shift to his role marks the end of an era for the company.

Long-time Opera CEO von Tetzchner announced the change himself:

“My decision to assume a new role in Opera is based on a lengthy consideration process. As outgoing Chief Executive, I leave confident in the company’s continued leadership in key markets, our strong management team, our ongoing commitment to innovation, and our robust financial foundation.”

Boilesen has held various management, sales and marketing positions at companies including Alcatel-Lucent (s alu), Tandberg Data, and Lego and was previously Opera’s chief commercial officer and a member of Opera’s board. He played a key role in positioning Opera as a cross-platform browser.

“We provide browser technology not only to nearly 100 million consumers worldwide, but also to the major players in the industry: Vodafone, T-Mobile, Nintendo, KDDI, SKT, Nokia, Samsung, Toshiba and Sony Ericsson to name but a few,” said Boileson, in a statement. He added that Opera will continue to work with OEMs and industry players to continue to push the adoption of Opera and the Opera Mobile and Mini browsers.

Opera faces more competition than ever in the browser market. Google has recently released beta versions of its Chrome browser for Mac and Linux, solidifying its cross-platform strategy. Mozilla’s Firefox browser is also available for Windows, the Mac and Linux, and many feel that these two open-source browsers are leading browser innovationNet Applications’ most recent browser market share data shows Chrome in third place — ahead of Apple’s (S aapl) Safari — with 4.6 percent global share. Firefox accounts for 24.6 percent of the market, while Microsoft’s (s msft) Internet Explorer has 62.7 percent. Opera, meanwhile, has only 2.6 percent share.

Going forward, Mozilla and Google have their eyes squarely set on encouraging healthy ecosystems of extensions for their browsers, and both Opera and Internet Explorer have ground to make up in that area. Opera Mobile is also likely to face competition from Mozilla’s Firefox Mobile browser, now out in a release candidate version. Without a doubt, Opera’s greatest challenges will come from Google’s and Mozilla’s open source competitors.