Opera Software could cease development of its Web browser for the Mac platform following Apple's release of Safari, Cnet reports.

The company released Opera 7 for Windows yesterday; a Mac version of the product was planned and at an advanced stage of development, but release plans for the product appear to have been shelved.

Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner said: "I'm not a quitter, and our company is not a quitter, but it really is up to Apple. The Mac platform may not be viable for us any longer."

The article reports that Opera asked Apple if it would be willing to license Opera as a replacement for Safari's current rendering engine, or to supplement Safari's current technologies. Opera currently sells Opera 6.0 for Mac, which costs $29.

"Opera has contacted Apple and asked if it wants a third-party browser, and we'll see what the answer is," Tetzchner said. "They could say we want to use Opera as the core engine. If they want KHTML as a simple little browser, and also something more advanced, we would be happy to provide it. Obviously, if we don't get any positive signs from Apple, then we’ll have to think about it."

Apple said: "We think Safari is one of the best and most innovative browsers in the world, and it seems our customers do too.

"No one is making Mac users choose Safari over Opera - they're doing it of their own free will - and Opera's trashing of Safari sounds like sour grapes."

Analysts are doubtful for Opera's project, eMarketer analyst Ross Rubin said: "Competition from a free Apple product is the kiss of death - perhaps even worse than competing with a free Microsoft product."

It's not the first time Apple has disgruntled its smaller developers. Many who were working on MP3 solutions saw the viability of their projects suffer on Apple's acquisition of SoundJam technologies from Casady and Greene - this was later re-developed and launched as iTunes.

More recently, Karelia Software, developer of Internet services utility Watson, and recipient of an Apple Developer award, saw many of its features subsumed into the most recent iteration of Apple's Sherlock technologies.

Jupiter research analyst Michael Gartenberg said: "If Apple subsumes more features into its OS, smaller developers are going to pay the price."

Apple sources have been adamant that its moves to add value to the platform are essential to fulfil the company's two-fold strategy of: becoming a viable alternative to Windows.