Plattner Takes Aim At MS Office?

Update: Plattner clarifies Office intent.

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Shortly into his Sapphire 2007 keynote, SAP chairman Hasso Plattner seemed to drop a bombshell.

Speaking of future application delivery scenarios and optimal system architectures, Plattner said: "We will provide a comprehensive set of office functions with integrated services. Office functions like Word, like Excel, like Exchange." The audience was several thousand SAP customers and partners gathered in Atlanta Monday afternoon.

This was an "am-I-hearing-what -I'm-hearing-moment" came just hours after SAP and Microsoft announced a a new "Duet" appliance that loads the Office-to-SAP linkages they've developed together onto an HP Proliant machine.

UPDATE: As it turns out, Plattner is not eschewing MS Office. Asked for contact after his keynote, Plattner clarified, saying SAP will offer access to back end processes and data from Microsoft Office itself and possibly a variety of Office-like front ends.

During the keynote, Plattner talked about the importance of divorcing the user interface (UI) from backend business processes so they need no longer be "spaghetti'd" together. He spoke of the necessity of providing an option of cloud-based and Web-delivered services but also retaining the on-premises software option as well, depending on customer need.

And he talked about the need to embed backend ties into Office. (Here the assumption is that he meant Office with Capital O as in Microsoft Office" as opposed to little-"o" office as in office functionality.

Some SAP'ers didn't seem to know what to think of Plattner's comments either. One could argue that since Microsoft (a huge SAP customer and partner) is trying to push its way into big-time ERP with its MBS solutions so that SAP might be inclined to push right back at Microsoft's Office franchise.

Taking on Microsoft Office, however, has proved problematic to many, many companies. IBM has tried several end-runs around the Office franchise, for example.

Analyst Stuart Williams of the Technology Business Research said SAP's overall game plan is to deliver the unstructured and structured data people need through a variety of interfaces, , some of which wil be spreadsheet like tools, some thorugh partner provided tools like Duet and some through the cloud theoretically in things like Google Apps," he noted.

Well, the talk at tonight's cocktail party should be illuminating.

This post was updated Monday night.

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