Collaborating companies hope their "apps" win approval

You're a painter and need to provide a fast quote for a complex house job.

With a new and innovative handset application, you could simply tap out specifications like paint codes and wall sizes on an iPhone, iPod Touch or BlackBerry.

In an instant, your client has the estimate at her fingertips.

The customizable project-management program is among several applications and games being created by a pair of collaborating St. Catharines companies, Symetric Productions and Cerebral Vortex Games.

The programs are part of a surge of new "apps" for handsets that are proving a hit with technology lovers.

"A lot of our clients were looking for different ways to get out there and expand their business," said Joe Jones, vice-president of Symetric, a King Street producer of high-end websites, graphic designs and interactive DVDs.

"The clients also wanted ... when travelling or on the road more access to their business," Jones said.

Such needs might include updating websites quickly or managing client information faster.

"We're looking at a client right now who can do quotes and invoices, and everything is integrated," said Keith Makse, president of Cerebral, a three-year- old firm producing web-based and downloadable games.

"So it (a handset) becomes the travelling office," Makse said. "It means much faster times when dealing with a customer."

The apps process begins when a client tells the collaborators what it needs from both a Web and phone standpoint.

"And with these features, the sky is pretty much the limit," said Jones. "Even down to creating games that might be useful for their industry." The games could be for entertainment, or part of a marketing campaign.

After the apps are developed, they advance to a handset company approval process that might take from one week to three months.

Their first project-management feature should be available in a month.

The apps, which include a scheduling program called i-Prioritize task manager, will eventually be downloadable from a future website or via Apple's iTunes and BlackBerry's online stores.

Basic downloads will likely cost $5 to $10. Eventually, the partnership will develop features for Android and Symbian handsets.

If sales take off, it's possible that at least a dozen new workers will be hired.

These kinds of local technology team-ups are the future, Makse said.

"There are mainly small players in Niagara," he said.

"And as we're part of nGen, the new-media incubator (in St. Catharines), we're basically all collaborating with each other.

"What we companies have to do is figure out what our strengths are," Makse said. "Then, borrow strengths from other people.

"That way, we're actually building our strengths together."

Jeff Chesebrough, nGen's executive director, said companies involved with the incubator are increasingly working together.

"We've had them collaborate on other projects," Chesebrough said. "It's really encouraging.... This is what's building our cluster.

"These companies are building on the success of what we're doing here."