SAP Plans Partner Recruitment For Mobile Platform Push

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While SAP HANA and cloud applications have topped the agenda at this week's Sapphire Now conference, SAP executives are making it clear the company intends to be a major player in the market for mobile software.

The vendor is now shipping SAP Mobile Platform 3.0, the company's latest software for building mobile applications. That release is more closely aligned with SAP's broader strategies for mobile computing, cloud computing, applications and business analytics, said Rick Costanzo, executive vice president and general manager of global mobility solutions.

"Mobile is not a stand-alone thing," Costanzo said in an interview at Sapphire. Costanzo, an executive at BlackBerry until late last year, joined SAP in February.

Costanzo said SAP hasn't always been clear about its mobile direction, a problem compounded by the multiple mobile development technologies the company offered, including software from its acquisitions of Sybase in 2010 and Syclo in 2012. SAP Mobile Platform 3.0 completes the unification of multiple mobile development platforms the company previously offered.

SAP, Costanzo said, is shifting to a platform strategy rather than a device-centric approach with tools for developing cross-platform applications for iOS, Android and Windows devices. Developing native applications for specific mobile devices is no longer feasible, Costanzo said, noting the growing market fragmentation with so many variants of Android.

SAP Mobile Platform 3.0 relies on HTML5 to build cross-platform Web applications that support multiple mobile operating systems. It also supports the open-source Apache Cordoba device APIs for building mobile applications that can access native device functions. SAP also offers its Kapsel plug-in tools that run HTML5 applications in a native-like experience with life-cycle management, security and deep offline capabilities, Costanzo said.

Users are also able to access SAP's Fiori client applications through the SAP Mobile Platform 3.0 release. This week SAP said it would begin offering Fiori for free with other SAP software product licenses. And the vendor is developing plans to provide access to other SAP apps through SAP Mobile Platform 3.0, including SAP Work Manager, SAP Inventory Manager, SAP CRM Service Manager and others.

Some solution providers aren't convinced SAP's approach is the correct one. Werner Hopf, CEO of Dolphin Enterprise Solutions, a Malvern, Pa.-based SAP partner, said applications developed with SAP's platform require constant network connectivity while many Dolphin customers want native apps that can work when devices are unconnected. "Talking to customers, that was very important," Hopf said, adding that demand for mobile connectivity for Dolphin's business process management software has been growing.

Costanzo, nevertheless, said SAP plans to "build one of the great mobile partner ecosystems" of VARs, systems integrators and mobile service operators to work with SAP Mobile Platform 3.0. "We need a vibrant mobile partner ecosystem," he said.

Looking ahead, Costanzo said SAP could move up the value stack of mobile software and develop technology in such areas as device management and identity authentication.


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