SourceCode Dev: Intelliware’s Recipe For Success In Mobile Apps

Posted by: SourceCode By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

Toronto-based developers Intelliware Mobile Solutions have attained success developing useful applications for iOS, Android, BlackBerry and BlackBerry PlayBook. We talked to them about their recent recipe apps developed for President’s Choice using Adobe’s tools as well as some of the challenges and solutions they’ve encountered along the way.

We interviewed Dave Scapillati, VP of Mobile Solutions, and Marc Henderson, Mobile Architect and lead developer for the President’s Choice Recipe Box app for the BlackBerry PlayBook.

CR: Tell us about the President’s Choice Recipe Box app for the BlackBerry PlayBook?

Scapillati:  It is a recipe application, it helps the user find recipes by many different categories, so they can easily search for recipe, our source has over 800 recipe in their catalogue, and this is a real easy and simple way to find those recipes and use it to you know plan a meal, plan a party.

The target was really busy moms, or head of households, and the goal was to create a kitchen utensil for the busy head of household so they can actually be used in the kitchen while cooking with their families you know at five o’clock in the afternoon. The goal here was really to make life easier for the busy head of households leveraging the technology of the new tablet, and that’s essentially where we’re at.

CR: Is the app updated from time to time to include new recipes?

Scapillati: We continue to add functionality, we continue to add recipes every quarter…

Henderson: Later in December we will be launching a little, we’ll be putting out an upgrade with the ability to create shopping lists based on the recipes that you are currently doing.

CR: Good so you see this as a long term project I suppose?

Scapillati: Yeah it’s on-going, you know when we constantly update the menus or the recipes and we constantly adding functionality to make it you know relevant for the users, and Loblaw’s goal, one of their objectives in all of this was really to be the innovative leader in the category, in the grocery category, so in order to do that, not only are they first out with an iPad App, and a PlayBook App, a tablet App, but also continually adding new functionalities, enhancements to it to constantly maintain that leader and innovative position.

CR: Can you print recipes from the PlayBook App?

Scapilatti:  No. The only way to do that is you can instantly e-mail a recipe to anyone in your contact list and then print that e-mail, or you could instantly link to Facebook we have complete…it’s integrated with Facebook, automatic sign in, post it on your wall and then access it that way.

Henderson: The integration features …those are in the iPad App, we’ve had a lot more time for the development of the iPad App. Eventually we want to get the two Apps as the same, so that the PlayBook App has all the same features as the iPad App.

And with the PlayBook, one the really important thing for us was to be one of the launch Apps, and we were successful in that but it did mean that we couldn’t put every single feature in this we wanted to.

CR:Okay can you tell us about the tools that you used, specifically to develop the App?

Henderson: Sure, we talked to Adobe and we decided to go with Adobe Flash Builder, we were using a BETA version of, now we’re going to use Flash Builder 4.5, which had all of the mobile components that are part of the AIR package. So it was written with an XML Action Script, so XML is a way of kind of rendering your layout and then Action Script.

When we started development we didn’t have a physical device, so we used to run a PlayBook simulator.

CR: How long before RIM was able to provide you with a PlayBook for testing?

Henderson: We got a device about a week before launch and then we were able to [tap] this on the device.

CR: So, was there much of a learning curve developing on the PlayBook on using the Adobe tools?

Henderson: There was, I mean there was and there wasn’t, we’ve been doing software for a long time and I am fortunate to have a really smart team so we are constantly exploring new technologies, so because of that it’s not hard for us to kind of adapt new technology. One of the nice things about the Adobe AIR package as I said is a lot of developers are  very comfortable in it

Action Script is very similar in [syntax] and structure to Java Script so again as a yeah we’ve got a lot of web developers, so that wasn’t really that hard for us to pick up and there was good documentation on the [API’s] available

CR: What are the challenge or benefits of porting one tablet app to a new platform?

Henderson: It becomes easier when you are porting an App from one platform to another, there’s a cost savings, because we’d already written this App once, and even though we’re writing it for a technology specs, there’s just certain things that we didn’t have to think through.

Any time we had a question would could just look back to the iPad App and go oh that’s how we handled it here, so why don’t we try that approach on the PlayBook.

CR: Let’s talk about the BlackBerry PlayBook, is it in a good position to compete today? In the future?

Henderson:There are good reasons companies like the PlayBook is a couple of things, and the one is all their sales force have Blackberry’s already.  So they can share the data plan, they don’t have to have a data plan, and two is built-in security.

The PlayBook’s already got the Blackberry enterprise server, it’s already integrated with their applications, their customer relationship management tool that they’re currently using, so this is a logical extension without you know having to add in changes in their security or authentication.

CR: Anything you’d like to add about Intelliware?

Scapilatti: We’ve been doing mobile for almost ten years now, and we know enterprise systems so well.

So since we know enterprise systems so well, having been developing custom applications for like 21 years.

It makes logical sense that our mobile positioning is to develop mobile apps that connect to the systems that we know so well.

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