Have you heard of NQ Mobile? Neither have I.
Founded in 2005, the Beijing-based company is actually an established provider of mobile security, but has nearly zero visibility in the U.S. Earlier this month, it tapped former Samsung Electronics executive Omar Khan as its new co-CEO, as part of a broader attempt to make a splash and remake the company's image.
NQ's software is probably the most widely used security software you've never heard of. The company's mobile applications, for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, boasts 122 million customers in more than 100 countries, although much of its audience is in China. Its app has been ranked as the most effective at detecting and eliminating mobile threats. Yet few in the U.S. are aware of it.
That's where Khan comes in. His appointment was part of a rebranding effort by the company, which has seen a name change from Netqin, as well as the opening of a U.S. headquarters in Dallas. He will work alongside Chairman and co-CEO Henry Lin. Khan's goals are to expand the product line, increase the visibility of the company, and get into different industries that are in need of mobile security.
Mobile security is an increasingly important issue, with companies warning of malware and other threats in the smartphone world. Android's open nature has led to a proliferation of threats, and gotten to the point where Google has stepped in and promised to scan the market for malware.
That's a real sweet spot for NQ Mobile. Khan said his software blows the competition out of the water. He said that a study found his software was 96 percent effective against threats, while the next competitor was only 41 percent effective. The reason why you've never heard of such a quality product? NQ Mobile looks to China for 64 percent of its user base.
"For me, this was an easy decision," Khan said. "It's not just a technology leader, but a market share leader."
I've known Khan for a while, initially while he served as one of the public faces of Samsung Electronics' North American mobile business, and then later at Citigroup, where he served a quick stint managing their mobile payments strategy before taking the reins as co-CEO at NQ.
During my interview with him, Khan sounded more at ease with this new role, which is a big change from his last two gigs working at major corporations.
He was eager to talk up the software, which he touted as built from the ground up specifically for mobile, a veiled shot at other security-software companies moving into the mobile world.
The competition for NQ will be fierce. Those companies, such as McAfee, have made decent strides in mobile. Perhaps the most notable mobile security provider is Lookout, which was also built for mobile specifically, and has been highlighted in carrier stores such as Sprint Nextel. On the enterprise side, Motorola's 3LM has become a bigger player in security.
Last month, NQ struck a deal to preload its software on Motorola phones in China.
Like Lookout, NQ plans to offer a free version of its security software, with an additional fee for premium features. The free software comes with a malware scanner, the ability to advise on bad apps on the device, and other security features. Premium service comes with an automatic update to its virus database, expanded antiloss features, and other financial security measures.
The cost is $1.99 each month, $4.99 for three months, or $6.99 for six months.
Mobile security isn't something to be taken lightly anymore. Khan said 6 percent to 7 percent of devices have some sort of threat on them. The number of attacks has quadrupled over the last two years.
"There's a tremendous amount of activity going on," he said.