Mobile Web usage to spike with security tie-ups

With companies such as China's Tencent partnering security firms to safeguard mobile Internet access, usage among consumers will be boosted, observes analyst.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

Securing mobile apps and Web access from mobile devices are key to spurring the adoption of mobile Internet usage, particularly in markets such as China where mobile phone security is still an emerging market, an analyst noted. Partnerships between Internet companies and security firms will help address the security issues.

Jane Wang, senior analyst at Ovum, said that in markets such as China, mobile phone security has not been taken seriously by Internet companies and mobile device makers. However, the emergence of mobile viruses, SMS (short message service) spam and spyware specifically targeting devices such as smartphones, has threatened to compromise users' privacy, personal information and even business-related data, she added.

"The depth of mobile applications will require more security protection than ever before," the analyst pointed out in her e-mail. Ovum is forecasting that China's 3G broadband connections will overtake fixed broadband connections by 2014, with mobile Internet apps becoming more abundant.

The recent partnership between Chinese Internet service provider Tencent and Russian security vendor Kaspersky Lab, aims to raise user awareness of mobile security, according to Wang. This will lead to increased acceptance of mobile Internet services, she noted, adding that Tencent is the first in the industry to enter into such partnerships with a third-party security vendor.

The partnership, which was announced on Dec. 7, will see Kaspersky Lab's mobile antivirus technology integrated into Tencent's QQ security expert. The two companies will also work jointly on mobile security products and initiatives to further improve on existing technologies, according to the security vendor's press release.

In the media statement, Tencent's president of mobile value-added services division Tel Liu said: "We are fully confident that we will be able to provide users with professional and comprehensive mobile security protection by integrating Kaspersky Lab's antivirus technology with our own."

Beyond boosting mobile Internet uptake, though, Lynn Jin, market analyst for software research at Springboard Research, said that the tie-up was motivated by each company's business priorities.

She told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail that the partnership is a "win-win cooperation". For the Chinese company, this is a step toward expanding its footprint in the security arena and will help it gain the initiative in the mobile market against local competitors such as Qihoo, Jin stated.

As for the Russian company, the partnership is an attempt to wrest back market share from China-based security vendors that are all providing free antivirus products currently. "It is an opportunity for Kaspersky to gain mobile customers fast and to regain PC users due to [Tencent's large consumer base]," the Springboard analyst said.

Asked if such partnerships hold any value beyond the Chinese market, Jin pointed out that as Tencent has no plans to venture overseas, this specific partnership will not be replicated in other markets. In general, however, partnerships between mobile and Internet service providers with security vendors "may have value" elsewhere.

Such value may be further driven by "mobilution", a term IDC coined for a growing trend where mobile devices including smartphones and slates such as Apple's iPad are becoming today's desktops. Additionally, the research firm predicts more than 550 million people in Asia-Pacific alone will become mobile Internet users by 2015.

When contacted, Kaspersky Labs was not able to reply in time while Tencent did not respond to ZDNet Asia's questions.

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