Nokia last week announced it has signed an agreement to acquire Novarra – a mobile browser provider based in the US – for an undisclosed amount. Nokia is planning on scaling Novarra to its Series 40 portfolio of devices, with first launches by year end.
Novarra describes itself as the pioneer of mobile Internet with close to one billion subscribers worldwide. It competes against Opera, with both companies aiming to optimise data traffic delivery. Both Novarra Vision browser and Opera Mini provide 90 percent compression rates in order to increase download speeds over the air and render web pages with better quality.
But Novarra’s capability to monetise mobile Internet is, I believe, the main reason why Nokia has acquired it.
Novarra can provide click-stream analytics based on context to analyse which web pages have been most visited, which brand is more popular, etc; and can filter such data depending on the user’s location, profile and behaviour. Suddenly, Novarra’s acquisition makes much more sense as we understand that Nokia will be able to help its partners to deliver targeted offers and personalised services directly to consumers. It also complements the purchase of Acuity Mobile – the location-based advertising firm – by Navteq, Nokia’s digital maps business, in September 2009.
Nokia will therefore be armed with its own mobile advertising solutions, in the same way Apple bought Quattro Wireless in January this year following Google’s acquisition of AdMob in November 2009.
Such mobile advertising capabilities fit well with Nokia’s Ovi strategy and emphasise its commitment to generate profits through a fully integrated software/content platform. As a matter of fact, Nokia announced not so long ago that it is distributing its turn-by-turn navigation software for free on certain smartphones, which adds another piece to the mobile advertising puzzle and shows Nokia’s intent to go for high volumes. At CES in early January, Nokia’s CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo mentioned that the Ovi mobile email service has attracted more than 5 million users one year after launch – with a prospect of more than 110 million Nokia mobile phone users.
However, we hope that in the coming months Nokia will shed more light on how it intends to have Novarra and Opera co-exist in its portfolio mix. In January this year, Opera acquired AdMarvel, which has developed its own monetisation and analytics platform. Opera therefore also has the capability to enable its partners to interact more efficiently with their mobile audiences and generate profits from mobile advertising. But according to its latest State of the mobile Web report, Opera showed that, across most markets, Nokia handsets were the most used Opera Mini-enabled devices. The Nokia 6300 and 5130 XpressMusic (Series 40) were the top handsets for Opera Mini in large markets such as Russia, China or India. Opera has announced that 50.5 million people are using Opera Mini today, but if you consider that Nokia ships that many Series 40 devices every two months or so (according to my guesstimate), Novarra could potentially become a greater threat to Opera’s mobile prospects.
Joss Gillet, Senior Analyst, Wireless Intelligence
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