Nokia is paying an undisclosed sum for Chicago-based Novarra, a provider of web-to-mobile adaption software. Nokia says the platform will help improve web access on its mid-range Series 40 handsets, but crucially it will also give Nokia much greater insight into user behavior around the mobile web.
Nokia’s move to buy Novarra provides it with a key piece of software infrastructure for optimizing and monitoring web content for mobile devices at a time when mobile web access has become big news for mobile carriers, which no doubt would prefer to keep this information to themselves. Companies such as Novarra, and key rivals in the space such as Opera, are building considerable databases of user behavior that in future could prove useful for targeting purposes.
As such, carriers will be right to view the news with some degree of concern, especially if Nokia takes Novarra fully in house and chooses not to continue building relationships with operators. It will also be bad news for Opera Software, which for some time has fulfilled a similar function to Novarra on Series 40 handsets.
However, it is currently unclear what Nokia’s plans are for selling its server-based platform to mobile operators. Certainly, Novarra – which was one of the first such platforms to prove it to operators – has visibly lost out in this market in recent times to Opera Mini. Opera Mini has begun building considerable operator traction, especially in developing markets, as well as threatening Novarra in key accounts such as Vodafone.
It is certainly possible that Nokia will continue to sell Novarra to operators, as well as using it to support its own handsets. Indeed, Nokia’s investment could reinvigorate the Novarra platform. However, if it does pursue this route then carriers will need to be sure both of Nokia’s willingness to support third-party devices and of its ability to compete with Opera Mini from a user experience point of view.