Nokia acquires mobile browsing company

The Finnish phone manufacturer is looking to push mobile Internet in emerging markets, says analyst

Nokia on Friday said it will acquire Novarra, a privately-held company based in Chicago that specializes in mobile browsing.

Novarra's technology, which can compress and reformat Web sites for phones that can't display them in their native form, will be used to improve the mobile Web experience on Nokia's cheaper phones, including devices based on the Series 40 platform, according to a statement from the Finnish company. The first results are expected to become available later this year, Nokia said, without providing more details.

The acquisition is seen as a way for Nokia to push mobile Internet access in emerging markets. In the developed part of the world, mobile Internet access is growing thanks to the increased popularity of smartphones, but that's not going to be the case in emerging markets, according to Jonathan Arber, senior research analyst at IDC. In emerging markets, phone manufacturers and operators need to bring Internet access and Internet services to cheaper devices, which is what it looks like Nokia wants to do, Arber said.

Nokia isn't providing any financial details of the deal, but the acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter of 2010. Novarra and its more than 100 employees will then become a subsidiary of Nokia.

The mobile browsing space has heated up significantly in the last couple of months. Just this week Opera Software submitted the iPhone version of its Mini browser to Apple for App Store approval. Also, Mozilla said it has decided to stop the development of a version of its Firefox mobile Web browser for phones running Windows Mobile. It will instead concentrate on an upcoming version of Firefox for Android-based phones, and on the existing version of the browser for Maemo, the operating system used in Nokia's N900.

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