Quietly, Opera is working on becoming a Smart TV powerhouse

Quick: What’s the first thing that pops in your head when you think of Opera? If you’re anything like me, it’s probably the company’s desktop browser. But there’s more to Opera: The company has been hugely successful in mobile, bringing in more than $400 million in ad revenue in 2012 alone, and it’s now getting ready to repeat that success story on the TV.
Opera has been active in TV for some time. The company’s browser software-development kit has been powering TVs and connected devices from Panasonic, Toshiba, Sharp and Philips as well as the new Boxee TV, just to name a few. Frode Hernes, VP of products and connected devices at Opera told me during a phone conversation last week that consumers already use an estimated 30 to 50 million TVs and connected devices that are powered by Opera.
But Opera’s role on your TV may get a lot bigger soon. Last year, it launched the Opera TV Store, a HTML-based app store that is now shipping with Sony’s (s SNE) Bravia TVs and coming to other vendors soon. And Hernes told me that it plans to launch advertising for TV apps before the end of the year.
These ads will include offers to try and install certain apps within other apps, much in the same way advertising is working on mobile phones. “We have done the technical integration,” Hernes told me, but the inventory just isn’t there yet. “It’s a little bit early,” he said. “We hope to have significant income next year” from TV ads, he added.
The company has also been adding additional features to its app store, including the capability to display apps side-by-side next to live TV and other content, and it is getting ready to switch its rendering engine from Opera’s own browser engine to Chromium to keep up with the latest in HTML5 development.
However, some of these changes might not find their way onto TV sets until 2014, simply because consumer electronics manufacturers take their time with integrating new software. “This is not like the mobile market,” Hernes said.
Consumers have often been on the flip side of those long release cycles, getting products that are already outdated as soon as they’re getting on the shelves of retailers, often with no chances for any product updates.
However, this could change once ads add additional monetization opportunities to smart TVs: Instead of operating on razor-thin margins and simply moving from one generation to the next, companies could actually be incentivized to add features and services to existing devices already in consumer’s homes, Hernes predicted. “This is one way of keeping the device relevant after it is sold,” he said.