Touch Lebanon has launched its own Android-compatible mobile application store aimed at marketing locally developed apps focused on Lebanese users, reports MENA regional investment website Wamda quoting Ghady Rayess, managing partner at FOO, a local app development company that will manage the store, the first of its kind in Lebanon. Android device users purchasing apps via the new store are charged directly by Touch (rather than via the third-party ‘Play’ platform of Android’s parent Google), while the cellco takes a 30% commission from app developers. Touch, which is managed on behalf of the Lebanese government by Kuwait’s Zain Group, has roughly near to a million Android-based customers accounting for the lion’s share of its approximately 1.2 million smartphone users, but in the future it intends to add BlackBerry and Windows-based apps to its store, according to Rayess. Wamda notes that Touch is following the lead of other MENA region network operators who have developed their own app stores, for example group sister company Zain Jordan and its rival Orange Jordan, Vodafone Egypt, Saudi Telecom Company and Mobily (Saudi Arabia) which in December 2013 reached three million mobile app downloads in the Mobily App Store compatible with operating systems including Android, BlackBerry, Windows, Symbian and Java. However, the report adds a cautionary note that network operators’ app stores, both local and international, have not historically been very lucrative, and indeed have often failed, for instance Spanish-giant Telefonica’s own-branded store, which launched in September 2009 but was shut in Spain, Germany and Argentina in April 2012.
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