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Lebanese Telecom Operator Touch Introduces Touch Cloud: a Backend as a Service Solution for App Developers

By Wael Nabbout | December 6, 2012 | Section: Coverage |

Lebanese telecom operator Touch and development house Element N announced today Touch Cloud, a set of scalable, generic web services that allow developers to build web and mobile apps. With 3.8 million mobile users in Lebanon, 48% using smartphones, and 1.2 million mobile data (3G) subscribers, Touch is building its strategy for mobile apps around 2 key features: a proprietary applications store and Touch Cloud.

Touch Cloud

Touch Cloud utilizes elements of Apstrata, a collection of off-the-shelf web services developed by Element N which serve as building blocks for HTML5 and mobile developers. These services are clustered under 4 categories.

  • Identity: Includes APIs for identity management, such as user registration & authentication
  • Persistence: used to maintain databases and content & media management
  • Messaging: allows for sending mail, SMS or push notifications
  • Orchestration: enbaling apps to connect with 3rd party services, such as Twitter or Facebook

Apstrata is platform and development tool agnostic, meaning that developers are not restricted to any specific programming language or development framework.

Additionally, Touch Cloud will enable network APIs for developers, which will in turn enable them to utilize a number of functionalities such as operator billing and SMS broadcast.

The applications store

The application store holds several advantages over global players such as Apple and Android.

  • Firstly, operator billing represents a safer and more accessible payment option to a vast majority of mobile users in Lebanon.
  • Secondly, Touch could put in place deals with local developers whereby they will offer bundled apps for consumers.
  • And lastly, Touch could also apply a zero cost data policy for browsing and downloading applications from its store.

Timeline, pricing and events

Touch Cloud will start its trial period in January in preparation for the commercial launch scheduled for June of 2013. During the trial period, the back-end services will be free of charge. After the full release, app developers will be charged on a per user basis within certain price brackets. Touch Cloud will remain free however for applications that have less than 500 users.

Operator billing will also be made available in January in Beta. Charges on billing will either be in the form of a fixed amount per transaction or as a percentage of the transferred amount. Additionally, during the period extending from January to June, Touch said that it is willing to negotiate charges on a case by case basis with developers.

Finally, Touch hold a series of events in between the beta launch and the commercial release:

  • A series of workshops focused on iOS, Android, and HTML 5 on January 12, 19 and 26 respectively.
  • The DevAppLB Hackathon: a 48-hour Hackathon where developers form teams and build mobile applications using Touch Cloud. Developers will receive guidance from technical, design, and business mentors. Winners will receive valuable prizes including cash, tech equipment, and in-kind prizes such as mentorship and business support.
  • The DevAppLB PitchFest: the final event before the release where developers pitch their mobile apps in private sessions with investors, judges, mentors, and a select group of members of Lebanon's mobile app and startup community.

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