Nokia Acquires Novarra, Mobile Browser Provider

Nokia is buying Novarra, a U.S.-based mobile browser provider. Once the deal closes this summer, Nokia apparently plans to incorporate Novarra's software into its smartphones. Although Nokia occupies a substantial portion of the world mobile market, it has struggled in the United States against competitors such as Apple, with whom it has been trading patent-infringement lawsuits since last year. Recent attempts by Nokia to raise its customer attractiveness include adding a free Skype app for its phones.

Nokia announced March 26 that it will acquire Novarra, a U.S.-based mobile browser provider, for an undisclosed sum. The purchase will theoretically result in Nokia incorporating Novarra software into its Symbian smartphone operating system. The deal will supposedly close this summer.

"Connecting the next billion consumers to the Internet will happen primarily on mobile devices," Niklas Savander, executive vice president of services for Nokia, wrote in a March 26 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."

Novarra's products include the Vision Browser, with a customizable modular framework and an ability to be customized to specific hardware and software requirements, and Vision Platform, whose architecture offers "open, standards-based interfaces to easily integrate with network and content data sources for personalization and mobile context."

Although Nokia holds the lion's share of the global mobile market with its Symbian operating system and wide selection of devices, it has struggled against competitors such as Apple and Research In Motion in the U.S. market. Its high-end N97 smartphone, launched in June 2009, sold only 500,000 units by August, a number considered soft by experts in the context of sales for rival devices such as the Apple iPhone 3G S, which moved more than 1 million units during its first weekend of release.

Nokia's recent steps to raise its profile have included adding a Skype app for its phones, via its Ovi Store, which allows for free Skype-to-Skype calls and instant messages. However, it faces competition on that front from Verizon, which announced it would also make a Skype app available to customers with BlackBerry or Google Android devices.

However, Nokia also faces potential headwinds thanks to back-and-forth legal action against Apple, with the two companies suing each other over supposed violations of their respective patents. Those lawsuits could drag on for two more years, according to a March 12 Reuters report. Nokia alleges that Apple has violated 10 of its patents, which Apple claims that Nokia violated 13 of its own patents.

"What they're involved in here is nothing life or death to either company," Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, told eWEEK. "It's just a matter of how much one is going to pay the other for rights to some technology."