Three days ago, the Opera Mini app was submitted to Apple for approval. To be accurate, it was submitted 3 days, 1 hour, 16 minutes, and you get the idea. Opera has turned their application submission into a media event. By using a timer, Opera places the onus squarely on the shoulders of Apple. If Apple approves the application, Opera is happy. If the application is not approved, or if the approval is slow, Opera has a scapegoat to shift the blame.
I wish them luck with their submission, but I admit I have strong doubts. To be blunt, Opera Mini is a stop-gap solution for a series of problems that will eventually disappear.
For those that don't know, Opera Mini is a web browser that forces all traffic through a set of proxy servers maintained by Opera. Those servers perform fancy tricks like re-sizing images, and sending content to the browser through a single encrypted HTTP connection. So when you want to browse to CNN.com, you're actually connecting to Opera's proxy server which gives you a compressed and modified version of CNN that looks good on Opera. The whole rationale behind Opera Mini's design is to overcome problems found in mobile and wireless networks.
Mini has good intentions, but the product is attempting to take ownership of problems that are outside of its control. Any bandwidth problems with mobile networks will eventually be resolved by the wireless carriers. At the same time web developers are fixing their web sites, and caching technologies like Akamai are reducing the latency in serving those sites. Opera Mini's success depends on carriers, developers, and technology companies ignoring the importance of the mobile web market; but nobody is ignoring the mobile web by a long shot.
On the other hand, Safari on the iPhone changed the mobile web marketplace by delivering real web pages to a mobile device. No, it's not 100% perfect, but the shortfalls of the wireless web aren't necessarily the fault with the browser. If an iPhone user experiences slow performance with Safari, they'll probably experience the same performance problems with Mail, Four Square, or other wireless applications. Now Opera Mini wants to jump into the scene by saying, "The technology you've been using for three years is slow and cumbersome, so use us instead."
As a sales argument, that's not going to work. The average consumers will never download Opera on their iPhone, just like they never downloaded Opera for their Windows PC. Meanwhile, technology enthusiasts will recognize the shortfalls of Opera Mini, and they will probably avoid it as well.
So what market does that leave for Opera Mini?