SAP A1S Hosted ERP To Emerge From The Shadows

SAP has talked in vague terms about A1S for the past year, and it featured a basic demo of the under-development service at its Sapphire conference in April. But September's event will be the first significant pubic showing of the code-named service, and the first discussion of SAP's business model and go-to-market plans for the offering. The company promises to provide "a comprehensive picture" of A1S at the Sept. 19 event, along with feedback from early customers kicking A1S's tires.

SAP has been lukewarm in its embrace of the SaaS model. It was the last major applications vendor to release a hosted CRM service, the "SAP CRM On-Demand" offering it launched in early 2006, but it has not heavily promoted the product. A1S represents a different approach: Aimed at midmarket companies, it's drawing interest from partners who specialize in SAP's Business One and All-in-One SMB product lines.

Company executives have also, in the past, disparaged the market for hosted ERP. SaaS took off in the CRM space because companies will take more risks with sales systems than they can with key ERP systems like order processing and accounting, SAP's then-products head Shai Agassi said at SAP's annual industry analyst briefing in late 2005.

"People will take more risk with edge process than core processes," Agassi said at the time. But Agassi is no longer SAP's top products strategist: he left the company in March, reportedly after tussling with operations head Leo Apotheker over SAP's succession plans.

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Apotheker, now SAP's deputy CEO, will be on hand as keynote speaker at A1S's September showcase. SAP CEO Henning Kagermann will also make an appearance, along with several other top executives.

SAP hasn't yet said how it will price and sell A1S. When CRM On-Demand launched, SAP offered partners a referral fee but kept sales direct-only.