Opera should be the default browser in all new Macs, Opera Software's chief executive officer Jon von Tetzchner revealed as the company releases Opera 6 for Mac Beta 3.

This latest beta version introduces language support for German and Japanese, and also has speed enhancements.

This is the first time the Macintosh version of the Opera browser is available in languages other than English. Mac Beta 3 includes improved rendering performance, improved font switching for better support of international Web pages, some user interface tweaks, and more fixes since Beta 2.

Opera performance Von Tetzchner said: "The Mac version is important to us. We want people to be saying that Opera is the fastest browser on the Mac as well as the PC.

"The Mac OS is also important to us as we have a cross platform strategy and we want to maintain that. So far Opera on the Mac hasn't given us huge returns, but we hope this will change over time."

Commenting on why the Mac version of Opera has been trailing behind the Windows upgrades which have reached beta 7.0, von Tetzchner said: "We have been trying to provide support for both Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X, and have spent a lot of time trying to make things look and feel Mac like, this has delayed development some what."

He admitted that it would be two or three months before Opera 6.0 reached final candidate, but added: "When the final version of Opera 6.0 is out, we want to get version 7.0 beta out as soon as possible and we think that version 8.0 of the browser will be a simultaneous cross-platform release."

Opera disclosed an agreement earlier this year for Macromedia to embed Opera's browser in its Web-authoring tools. Von Tetzchner explained: "Macromedia wanted us to strip the browser down to its browser-rendering engine, the company then plans to embed this module in Web-authoring products for the Mac platform."

Feud Von Tetzchner claims the company's feud with Microsoft was caused after Opera-browser users were "deliberately" denied access to the software giant's MSN portal last year. He added: "You have to ask yourself why would they like to make MSN, one of the most visited sites on the Internet, incompatible with a competitive browser.

"We must be a serious enough threat for them to do this sort of thing. However, the whole thing back fired and we got a lot or press out of it."

Jon von Tetzchner and Gein Ivarsoy founded Norway-based Opera Software in 1995. Von Tetzchner has few regrets, but one that he describes as "painful" was developing versions of Opera for the ill-fated BE OS.

The BE OS was owned by BE Inc, which was founded by Jean-Louis Gassee, former Apple chief technologist, who headed the Mac maker's research and design department in the 1980s. The company was: sold to Palm in August 2001.

Wasted Von Tetzchner said: "If there was anything that I could change with hindsight, it would be when we made Opera 3.6 and 4.0 for the BE OS. BE went out of business, it had a hard time with Microsoft.

"We made two versions of the browser that didn't continue, that's painful. We need to make licenses to make money: it's as simple as that. I don't want to speak badly of those involved, it was the right move for us at that time, but with hindsight, I regret we didn't make more money and as a company we can't afford to make too many of those mistakes."

Speaking of Opera's future on the Mac, von Tetzchner said: "The most important thing is to have a Mac version out there that meets Mac users hopes and expectations. We will not be happy until people say that Opera is the best browser for the Mac. We will be working hard to get distribution of Opera with Macs as preferred choice, when we do this we will be happy."

Opera 6 for Mac Beta 3 is available for download from Opera's Web site.