Contact: Jarrett Streebin
In an effort to increase its appeal in emerging markets, Nokia has bought Novarra, the first of two deals in as many weeks. With the acquisition, Nokia obtains Novarra’s faster and more-efficient browser, which is important in emerging markets where bandwidth limitations exist. Nokia is also playing catch-up with players like Apple and Research In Motion that already have their own browsers.
Nokia ships more than 400 million phones annually, many to customers in emerging markets such as Africa, Asia and South America. Having a fast, low-bandwidth browser like Novarra will enable Nokia to better attract carriers in these regions and with the smartphone craze just starting to take off, the company gains an edge on competitors whose browsers require more bandwidth.
Although the deal value wasn’t released, we understand that Nokia paid roughly four times trailing sales for Novarra. The 10-year-old startup had received $88 million in funding from JK&B Capital, Qualcomm, Fort Washington Capital Partners, Kettle Partners and Colorado Investment Securities, with $50m of this coming in a round in 2007.
This move will also affect Novarra’s rivals such as Opera Software and Mozilla. The impact on Mozilla will be limited because its browser targets 3G smartphones like Nokia’s N900 to provide a rich, unconstrained mobile browsing experience. Opera is currently the market leader in mobile browsing, with more than 50 million active users, many of whom are using Nokia phones. Now, Nokia will have its own browser to compete. Although this will cut Opera’s market share, Vodafone has already announced that it will be preloading Opera on many of its phones in emerging markets. It could be that Vodafone needs a browser of its own, too.