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Opera acquires Handster to tap into app stores

Handster's services include white-label app stores and developer tools. Opera's acquisition shows a business plan broadening beyond browsers.

Handster logo

Browser maker Opera Software announced a new step in diversifying beyond browser-driven search ads today, the acquisition of Android app store specialist Handster.

Handster offers a white-label app store platform that others can use to sell apps and "the world's largest independent Android content library," Opera said today. It also offers developer tools, financial transaction abilities for setting payments, services for curating content--and customers.

Device manufacturers using its services include MTS, Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Huawei, and LG Electronics, Opera said. The services will dovetail with the existing Opera Mobile Store, which already offers apps for "virtually every mobile platform," including iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Symbian, the company said.

Opera Software logo

App Stores are all the rage as companies seek to profit from online distribution of software--especially mobile software for smartphones. It can be hard to convince most customers that off-brand app stores--in other words, those not operated by Apple, Google, Microsoft--are worth the trouble. And Opera, which for years has advanced Web standards and the Web apps that can be built with them, now finds itself edging closer to the native apps side of the software development world.

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but Chief Executive Lars Boilesen was of course bullish about the deal:

Opera is evolving from being a browser company into a fully integrated mobile services company and this acquisition is an important step in that direction. We are delighted to welcome the Handster team into the Opera family. Handster will enable us to strengthen our mobile store offerings to consumers, mobile operators and handset manufacturers.

In 2010, Opera launched mobile advertising services, based on its acquisition of AdMarvel.

Opera faces ever-stiffer competition from Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, and Chrome, especially as new smartphones threaten its Opera Mini product. But so far, Opera's finances are improving.