UPDATED: Nokia appears to have an Ovi-branded web browser in the works, although the company hasn’t officially confirmed the effort. There’s solid evidence such a client exists, however, as Nokia’s Beta Labs site has a password-protected page with the telling URL of http://betalabs.nokia.com/apps/ovi-browser. There’s also an Ovi Browser Twitter account first noticed by ZOMGitsCJ noticed by Clinton Jeff at ZOMGitsCJ
Unwired View, as well as alleged confirmation of someone actually using the browser. The question then may not be “is” Nokia is building an Ovi browser, but more a question of why it is building a branded browser when it has an existing browser?
Reportedly, the Ovi Browser is based on WebKit, which makes sense for several reasons. Nokia began to use WebKit for its smartphone browsers in 2005, so changing to another platform would be a change in pattern. And there’s really no reason for Nokia to use a different web platform, especially given that WebKit’s current use on mobile platforms such as iOS4, Android, webOS and soon in BlackBerry handets, makes it currently the dominant browsing technology for mobiles. If Nokia already has a WebKit browser then, there’s a few things that a newly-branded Ovi Browser could bring.
The very branding of an Ovi browser would help Nokia’s Ovi platform gain consumer awareness. And for a company that needs to ramp up service revenues due to falling handset prices, what better way is there than to market the Ovi service store to their customers? It’s also possible that an Ovi browser unifies the existing Ovi services and adds room for new ones in the future. Currently, Nokia offers Ovi Mail, Ovi Messaging, Ovi Contacts and more. Ovi is a platform with many clients, but an Ovi browser could tie all of these services together seamlessly.
Lastly an Ovi browser could be a dual-purpose client for both mobiles and the desktop. Nokia is juggling various platforms — Symbian S60, Symbian^3, and MeeGo — across feature phones, smartphones and eventually netbooks. One web client that syncs preferences, bookmarks and passwords among those devices would make an Ovi browser appealing to owners of multiple Nokia devices.
Update: Apparently, there’s also a fourth way Nokia could use an Ovi Browser — as an Opera competitor on
Symbian S40 Series 40 handsets. Nokia just released a beta Ovi Browser for low-end handsets that — like Opera — centrally compresses web data before serving it up on a Symbian S40 Series 40 handset. The company is targeting the right devices to reduce data throughput by up to 90 percent as many S40 Series 40 devices are found in emerging markets where mobile broadband is either scarce or expensive.
Related GigaOM Pro Content (subscription required):