Q&A: Novarra Responds to Mobile Web Issues

novarra.jpgAfter we posted about Novarra’s partnership with Vodafone to power their mobile Internet services, critics of Novarra’s transcoding application – including Kevin McCloskey of MobileAware – charge that the technology is a common denominator solution that “often destroys the look and feel of a company’s website, thereby diminishing their corporate brand and identity.” The debate continues to rage on the issue of how Web sites ought to be rendered on mobile devices. Is Novarra’s solution a step backwards as some critics claim? We asked the executive team at Novarra for their take.

Mobile Crunch: Ever since the deal was announced between Vodafone UK and Novarra there have been those who have expressed feelings that it is a move in the wrong direction for mobile Web searching. What do you say to those detractors, who are claiming that this application will make using some sites more difficult?

Novarra: It may be that these people have used a product of this quality. Most people find it is quite a compelling Web experience on regular, average handsets across commerce, news, mail, skiing…you name it. Next time you are stuck somewhere waiting to go back to the laptop to look up something on the Web; you may remember this thread.

Novarra has operator customers across America, Europe and Asia on both 2.5G and 3G networks. In these deployments, the consumers use the service regularly and have no complaint, and the operators are happy with the consumer uptake and usage.

Most operators have deployed many high-tier handsets and PDAs with full Web browsers for the last 3+ years. Novarra shipped the full browsers on the Palm platform since mid 2002. These products try to provide the full Web on phones.

We believe that there is a role for “created for mobile” content as well, both legacy and future. However, one cannot miss the obvious. The power of the Web is the millions of sites, each relevant.

Mobile Crunch: How long was the transcoding technology from Novarra in development, and how many handsets was it tested on?

Novarra: Novarra’s web transformation solution is the result of 7 years of product development and 5 years of commercial deployment. It has been validated on 100s of handsets. Transcoding is one piece of the solution. Network optimization, handset usability, network platform integration, content optimization, etc. contribute to transforming the desktop experience for a mobile user. All mobile specific content is also supported.

Mobile Crunch: Is the transcoding application continually being refined to address issues that users may encounter with various Web sites they try to view?

Novarra: It is correct that the problem is quite vast. As the Web changes and evolves, the solution is continuously upgraded. The industry is starting the next phase of a journey that started way back. Novarra has a commitment to that vision, which is why we are where we are today. Central to our vision is placing quality and user experience at the heart of everything we build; which will help us address the evolving Web.

Mobile Crunch: Remembering the 1.0 launch of the Web in the mid-1990s, there was an opinion that there were things you couldn’t do, because the Web wasn’t designed for commerce, video, interaction, etc. So do you see some of these same issues cropping up with the mobile Web? That is, that people are saying, “you can’t do these things on the mobile Web,” and it is up to innovators to again make it happen?

Novarra: Absolutely. There are many myths, fears and theories. With innovation and solid products these hurdles are removed.

Mobile Crunch: While we’re hearing a lot about Web 2.0 for the PC, are we really at that point with mobile? It was stated recently that we’re really at Web 0.5 on the mobile, that we have a long way to get there. But suddenly people discover they can use the Web on mobile and they want everything and they want it today. So, can mobile really deliver everything?

Novarra: Consumer habits can change very quickly. Novarra’s products are so easy to deploy to existing consumers and their handsets that it lends itself to a broad and quick adoption.

The rate of progress in bringing the web to the mobile is changing rapidly and is catching up with the capabilities for regular Web capabilities (e.g., video). What may prevent some of things coming to the mobile are commercial decisions made by the different players: content providers, operators, handset manufacturers alike. Bandwidth is a vastly more limited commodity on mobile networks than fixed, and this will affect pricing and business models.

People will want everything they can have – at the right price. It’s the nature of the internet and it’s the nature of technology in general.

Mobile may not deliver “everything” tomorrow, but the potential is to deliver something even more unique and different, as an additive to the internet today. Certainly, Web 2.0 is a clear possibility.