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3/21/2013
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Corona Labs Launches Corona Cloud

Corona Labs wants to provide backend services for mobile apps.

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Following its acquisition of Game Minion last year, mobile development tool maker Corona Labs has rebranded and relaunched the service as Corona Cloud.

Company co-founder and CEO Walter Luh calls Corona Cloud "mobile backend-as-a-service."

MBaaS? It's awkward as an acronym, but increasingly popular as a business model. Selling software runs the risk of competing with a less expensive or free open source option. And then you have to upgrade your software periodically to continue generating revenue. But cloud services bring in regular revenue and benefit from the lock-in of inertia and the pain of rewriting code. What's more, mobile app developers tend to see value in services that accelerate and simplify the creation and maintenance of apps.

[ Do they have to worry about companies like Google? Read Google Keep Arrives, But For How Long? ]

Thus it's perhaps unsurprising that Corona Cloud has a lot of company: Appcelerator, Applicasa, CloudMine, Parse, Kinvey, Sencha.io and StackMob are but a few of the companies that aspire to offer backend services to mobile application developers. And that's to say nothing of companies like Amazon Web Services, Google App Engine, Heroku and Rackspace that provide lower level services to developers who prefer to build their own backend solutions.

Corona Cloud will undoubtedly add value to Corona SDK, Corona Labs' Lua-based mobile development framework for Android and iOS. But it may also help the company attract enterprise developers and developers using programming frameworks other than Corona SDK. That's because Corona Cloud relies on industry-standard REST communication.

Corona SDK is used primarily by mobile game developers and the Corona Cloud API reflects that. It supports Achievements, Analytics, Authentication, Chat, Leaderboards, Multiplayer, News, Push Notifications, Social Connect, Cloud Sync and Users. But many of these APIs, such as those related to user management and authentication, also can be used in general business applications.

Luh, in a phone interview, said that the goal with Corona Cloud was to create a cloud stack that's easy for anyone to use, even developers who aren't Corona SDK users. But what may really sell the service is its affordability. While many cloud providers have free service tiers, they still present a risk to developers because the service stops being free after a certain number of API calls. The risk is that one's mobile app could become popular enough to hit the paid tier without generating enough revenue to offset the cost through in-app purchases, ads or unit sales.

Corona Cloud doesn't entirely eliminate this possibility but it does exempt certain API calls -- for leaderboards, user accounts and achievements -- from counting toward the API call limit. This allows indie developers to integrate basic user functions in Corona Cloud without the nagging worry of a sudden, unexpected bill. For larger, more established developers, such concerns matter less.

Corona Cloud's free tier includes monthly quotas of 500,000 API calls, 1 GB storage, 500,000 Push notifications and seven days worth of analytics. The other tiers are priced per month at $49, $99 and $199, with appropriately higher quotas.

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