Mobile Computing's Tipping Point

Mobile security products fared better than did the broader security market in a very tough 2009. Look for that trend to continue.

This year is shaping up to be a tipping point for client and mobile computing.

Just two months ago, for example, Apple Corp. delivered its iPad mobile computing device. iPad sales have been brisk, and Apple is on target to sell more than $1 billion of its mobile devices.

More recently, Apple raised a firestorm with its aggressive prosecution of a tech blog that published photos and disclosed information about its still-unreleased fourth-generation iPhone. Then, late last month, SAP AG spent $6 billion for former database high-flier Sybase Inc., citing the attraction of Sybase's market-leading mobile computing portfolio.

Through it all, enterprise shops have been snapping up mobile security products.

In fact, says market watcher Infonetics Research, mobile security products fared better than did the broader security market in a very tough 2009. While other security segments (such as the market for NAC enforcement devices) declined in 2009, sales of mobile security solutions paradoxically grew, Infonetics reports.

It's official: mobile is hot. In point of fact, client security is hot, according to Infonetics. "Combined with the very successful launch of Windows 7 and the continuing development of an incredibly hostile threat environment, client security revenue increased almost 10 percent in 2009," said analyst Jeff Wilson, in a statement.

As this year's rise in mobile-related activity demonstrates, however, mobile will be an especially strong growth area in the future. In five years, Wilson predicts, the mobile security space will generate roughly one-quarter of all security market sales. Over that same period, it could expand at a mind-boggling 50 percent compound annual growth rate, he indicates. "The mobile security client market is particularly hot: as a percent of the total market, mobile security client revenue remains fairly small through 2010, but grows significantly by 2014, when it reaches 25 percent of the total market," he said.

Symantec is the overall leader in a market segment, followed by rivals McAfee and Kaspersky, according to Infonetics. Right now, consumer-oriented desktop offerings still account for the bulk of client security sales; at the same time (and as a consequence of maturity and market saturation), they're also the slowest growing.

Mobile is where the growth is. This year, for example, Infonetics projects that sales of mobile client security software will spike, thanks in part to the popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, which are engendering a rash of new threats.

An eruption of next-generation mobile solutions, coupled with ongoing disruption in the desktop computing space (thanks to the popularity of both virtualization and cloud computing) could permit vendors other than the entrenched Big Three -- i.e., Symantec, McAfee, and Kaspersky -- to grow their shares.

"[C]hanges in the way people use networks are creating opportunities in many segments of IT infrastructure, and client security is one of them," said Wilson, in an earlier statement. "Companies looking to exploit new opportunities in client security should focus energy and attention on new problems like smartphones and netbooks, or different ways of solving old problems like offering cloud-based solutions."