Nokia Buys Novarra to Enhance Mobile Web

The world's largest phone maker today bought a mobile browser company, saying the move is designed to appeal to the "next billion consumers" on the Internet, who will chiefly be using mobile devices.

Despite Nokia's global presence as the leading provider of handsets and its enormous R&D resources, the company is seen by some analysts as having been caught flat-footed by the iPhone's successful debut, and has since struggled to stay competitive with Apple and other smartphones providers, particularly in the U.S. But Nokia said Friday's purchase of Chicago-based Novarra is designed to help it get ahead of the curve in addressing the next generation of mobile consumers.

Privately held Novarra offers both a mobile browser and services platform under the Vision Browser and Vision Platform brands respectively. The company's mobile Web products are sold to operators, mobile device manufacturers, mobile phone users and Internet brands (including Yahoo). On its Web site, Novarra said it offers mobile users "a PC-like experience including Web, multimedia, RSS, widgets and contextual advertising."

Nokia said it expects to offer a new service utilizing the Novarra technology platform later this year. Novarra, which has over 100 employees, will become a division of Nokia in a deal that's expected to close in the second quarter of this year.

Handheld Maker Looking to Improve Mobile Internet Experience

"Connecting the next billion consumers to the Internet will happen primarily on mobile devices and delivering an optimized Internet experience on our devices is core to our mission," Niklas Savander, Nokia's executive vice president of services, said in a statement.

"By driving innovation in all segments of our portfolio, we are building one of the largest consumer audiences for Web services and content. Novarra's Internet services technology delivered on the world's most widely used mobile platform, Nokia's Series 40, will help us achieve this."

Nokia said over 1.2 billion people use Nokia mobile devices (mobile phones, smartphones and mobile computers) worldwide. The company has already moved to provide mobile applications and services like e-mail, games and music through its Ovi platform. The company also owns digital maps and navigation giant Navteq and has been integrating Navteq's services into Nokia devices.

"There's no question they need a solid browser," analyst Tim Bajarin told InternetNews.com. "For Nokia to make a strong play in the U.S. they have to have a smartphone with a very rich browser because that is the gateway to all sorts of information and Web apps."

Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies said Nokia was smart to get a browser it could customize that in theory will let it add unique value to Nokia's phones.

Nokia isn't the only smartphone company boosting its mobile browser expertise. BlackBerry maker Research In Motion last year bought mobile browser vendor Torch Mobile, and RIM said its implementation of a WebKit mobile browser will be out this year.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


mobile, smartphone, Nokia, mobile device, mobile browser