SAP teams with Palm and IBM on apps, services

ORLANDO, Fla. — Sapphire 2001 started off rather tongue-in-cheek.

An estimated 10,000 SAP users, press and analysts were greeted first by a short film Wednesday morning chronicling a young boy’s visit to museum documenting the short period in history known as the novus economus — the new economy. Exhibits included an extinct species we’ve come to know as “dotcommers.”

As the short film ended, the boy and his father appeared live on stage, where the precocious child asks his father when they will see how Oracle saved itself US$1 billion using its own software. The reply: “That’s tomorrow, when we go to Fantasy Land.”

Hasso Plattner, CEO and co-chair of the world’s third-largest software company, was quick to get down to e-business reality as he took the podium, and the setting took on a more sober tone. Walldorf, Germany-based SAP has not been completely immune to the problems of the novus economus, said Plattner, in particular referencing Pandesic, its failed joint applications services provider venture with Intel, which shut its doors in July 2000 because it did not see a clear path to profit.

“The business model with Pandesic did not work,” said Plattner. “The model was wrong.”

SAP has learned its lesson, he said, and he proceeded to outline a pragmatic and customer-centric strategy for the company. Plattner said that despite the sluggish economy, “it’s a time for opportunity.”

He also said a future where all customers standardize on the same applications is unlikely, and that SAP will focus on using portals and private exchanges to help companies talk to each other, whether they are using SAP applications, a SAP partner’s application or even the applications of the enemy.

The company also made a dizzying slew of announcements in an early-afternoon press conference, including partnerships with Palm and IBM that will increase the integration of their technology with SAP’s applications and services. SAP is teaming up with Palm to offer its e-business software to mobile users through Palm’s handheld computers. The German software giant is also expanding a partnership with IBM to make it the top provider of computer technology and services for SAP’s Internet-based software. SAP and Santa Clara, Calif.-based Palm, meanwhile, will jointly sell their integrated technology to companies as part of the deal and will develop mobile business applications based on the Palm OS. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

The expansion of the relationship with Big Blue will allow the combination of technology from the German company’s subsidiaries SAP Portal and SAPMarkets with IBM software. The Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM will license and combine SAP Portal technology with its WebSphere Portal Server as part of the deal, while SAPMarkets will license the WebSphere server for its customers.

The deal with IBM expands on a longstanding relationship and is based on SAP’s traditional line of software products, called R/3, which predate the Internet push.

The comic highlight of the day came when Plattner incorrectly identified Compaq chairman and CEO Michael Capellas as the head of Oracle.

Sapphire continues through Friday and Canadian-specific announcements are expected Thursday.

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