Nokia's acquisition of Novarra browser questioned

Nokia's recent purchase Novarra, a mobile browser developer, is being seen by some commentators as a mistake, and could also be viewed as a further attempt to relegate operators to dumb pipes.

Analysts have questioned why Nokia has acquired Novarra--a relatively small player in the mobile browser market--when it already has a long-term relationship with Opera. Already considered the market leader, Opera Mini is increasingly a de facto standard in the mass market, and is progressively signing up more operators wanting to preload its browser, drawn by its brand appeal in emerging economies and its efficiency on feature phones.

According to Rethink Wireless, Nokia is making the same mistake with acquiring Novarra (primarily to bring web capabilities to its low end Series 40 handsets) as it did with the creation of Mosh--its social networking service. It acquired Plum and Dopplr to build this, while Google pushed Buzz Mobile. Impact on Facebook--virtually zero.

While accepting that bringing smartphone-like functionality to budget phones and emerging markets is the best growth opportunity this year, Novarra is not the way to leverage that. Instead, Nokia should enhance its existing partnership with Opera, said Rethink Wireless.

Furthermore, taking control of the browsing experience might enable Nokia to create an "Ovi" experience direct from the browser. While this could benefit operators by increased data usage from feature phones, the potential downside would be a much more prominent Ovi presence in front of the consumer, in preference to operator content or browser-based applications.

For more on this story:
Rethink Wireless
& Mobile Europe

Related stories:
Opera developing web browser for Android devices
RIM acquires browser development firm Torch Mobile
Huawei to preinstall Opera Mobile 10 browser
Mozilla extends Firefox for mobile to Nokia's Maemo

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