Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM) and SAP AG have announced a plan to deliver native enterprise application clients to the BlackBerry, beginning with SAP Customer Relationship Management (CRM).
"CRM is just the start here," said Bob Stutz, SAP's executive vice president and general manager of industries and CRM. He said BlackBerrys would soon have native clients for SAP's enterprise resource planning (ERP), supply chain, and other industry applications.
Stutz said the CRM client for BlackBerry would hit the market in a couple of months and other SAP applications would be available on the device in a matter of months rather than years.
RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie said this deal with SAP will be as transformative to CRM and other enterprise applications as the BlackBerry was to messaging.
"Native information access changes things on a quantum level," Balsillie said. "You've seen what it does for PIM [personal information management] and messaging. The question is why we didn't do it natively earlier. We had to create the APIs, a partnership and framework, and a go-to-market plan."
"I think RIM is making an aggressive move to become a leader in business applications," said Kitty Weldon, principal analyst for enterprise mobility at Current Analysis. "That's an area that -- compared to Microsoft -- they've been a little weaker in. And they absolutely have to be able to support mainstream business applications or they're going to see business customer erosion."
SAP and RIM first partnered in 2004 to deliver SAP applications that BlackBerry users could access via a Web browser, said Bill McDermott, president and CEO, SAP Americas and Asia Pacific Japan. He said this CRM announcement would be the first SAP client application native to the handset.
Jack Gold, founder and president of J. Gold Associates, said SAP has had mobile applications on the market for a while. "But it hasn't been very good and they understand that," he said. "They're trying to make it better."
With SAP CRM delivered through a native client, BlackBerry users no longer depend on a wireless connection to use the software.
"The bottom line is that if you're going to do Web access only, that means you need a connection at that time, and it has to be quick," Gold said. "You can't guarantee that's always going to be the case. Many users go down the wrong alley and their cell doesn't work anymore."
With a native client for CRM, the application is asynchronous, he said. "If the connection goes away for three minutes, the BlackBerry user won't notice. The ultimate goal is to not be getting help desk calls from irate users saying they cannot connect to SAP."
"SAP happens to be a significant player in back office technology, so what you're seeing is a natural marriage of what's popular on the back end and what's popular on the front end [the BlackBerry] and getting them to work together," Gold said. "You're going to see more and more applications enabled on BlackBerrys."
SAP executives said their company would demonstrate the BlackBerry CRM application at SAP's user conference, SAPPHIRE 2008, in Orlando this week. No doubt BlackBerry users will be treated to a preview, too, at RIM's Wireless Enterprise Symposium in Orlando from May 13 to May 15.
Let us know what you think about this story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Editor