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Demand for mobile security, management unaffected by Symantec delay

Lack of demand for mobile security products minimizes the impact of Symantec's delayed product release.

A relative lack of demand minimized the impact of Symantec Corp.'s announcement earlier this week that it has delayed the launch of a product designed to provide security on smartphones and PDAs.

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But the challenge of managing mobile devices -- including mobile VPNs and other security measures -- continues to provide sales opportunities as value-added resellers (VARs) move into the mobile market, experts said.

Symantec planned to release Norton Mobile Security for Smartphones, an offering that the company says will provide the same security and data protection as found on laptops and other devices, this week.

But now it won't hit shelves until the fall, the Cupertino, Calif.-based vendor said in a statement. The enterprise version, Mobile Security Suite 5.0, will still be released as planned in June.

McAfee Inc., Trend Micro Inc., F-Secure Corp. and other leading vendors also sell mobile security software, said Natalie Lambert, a senior analyst for Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

"In general, there isn't a huge demand today -- not because there shouldn't be, but because we haven't had a widespread threat," Lambert said.

Most smartphone and PDA users either think they don't need security software now or don't want to deal with the inconveniences of buying and installing it, said Bill Hughes, principal analyst for Scottsdale, Ariz.-based In-Stat. The presence of leading vendors in the market will help enterprises and consumers realize the need, Hughes said.

"They're going to think to themselves, 'I didn't think I needed this now, but maybe I should,'" he added.

The new version of Symantec's Mobile Security Suite for Windows Mobile smartphones and PDAs includes antivirus, firewall, antispam and data encryption. Advanced features include network access control (NAC), tamper protection and an optional VPN. Norton Mobile Security is the suite's consumer version.

Proof-of-concept attacks have exposed the vulnerabilities of mobile devices, but there has yet to be a highly publicized malicious attack. Although organizations know there will eventually be a real threat to mobile devices, most would rather spend their money on actual current vulnerabilities, Lambert said.

"It's human nature and the fact that we have x number of dollars set aside for security initiatives," she said.

The Boston-based Yankee Group predicts that more than 269 million users in businesses and other organizations will have mobile devices by 2010 -- an increase of about 20% per year. Hughes predicts it will take about three years for mobile security to become widely adopted.

VARs can get ahead of the curve by integrating mobile security with the security management systems they already sell. All organizations will eventually want the ability to manage all of their security from one console, and vendors will eventually offer that kind of product, Lambert said. But in the meantime, there is an opportunity for VARs to stave off that impending direct-sales challenge, she said.

VARs who typically deal with traditional IT security also have the opportunity to expand into the mobile market, Hughes said. They will have to make some changes, like having the ability to deploy software wirelessly, but in the end, "they will be doing their clients a very big service," he said.

Let us know what you think about this story; email: Colin Steele, Features Writer.

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