CHICAGO -- An executive in SAP's mobile solutions group said the company will soon port its applications to the BlackBerry platform, but the amorphous strategy left some wondering when those applications might arrive.
During a session this (last) week at Research In Motion Ltd.'s Wireless Enterprise Symposium 2004 user conference, SAP America's director of mobile solutions, Tom Jones, told attendees that the company has initiated development work on several of its mobile applications so they will work "out of the box" in conjunction with the BlackBerry platform.
A few weeks ago at Sapphire, where SAP unveiled its alliance with RIM, the enterprise software maker said it would release the first native BlackBerry application, mySAP Customer Relationship Management (mySAP CRM), in the fourth quarter.
Jones said other applications in SAP's mobile portfolio would follow. They include Mobile Time and Travel, a travel management application that offers mobile workers access to time sheets and expense reports; Mobile Sales, which offers tools specifically for traveling sales professionals; Mobile Service, software designed for field service engineers; Mobile Asset Management, an application that helps deskless users access order management and inventory management systems; Mobile Procurement, which enables management of procurement functions like price comparisons and ordering; and Mobile Direct Store Delivery, a set of customer service and relationship management tools specifically for delivery personnel. SAP also offers mobile versions of its supply chain management and business intelligence applications.
Many of these applications can be used with BlackBerry today, Jones said, but custom development work is required. That typically means investing in professional services from SAP or an SAP business partner.
However, Jones said there is currently no release timetable for any applications other than mySAP CRM; it plans to base its future releases on customer demand. But with mySAP CRM debuting at the end of the year, it's likely that subsequent applications won't debut until 2005 or beyond.
This strategy perplexed attendee Desere Edwards, a Dallas-based telecom procurement manager for a large beverage firm. While her company doesn't have plans to invest in SAP because it uses applications from Oracle Corp., she thought it was strange for SAP to pitch BlackBerry applications when it doesn't have any firm release dates.
"It's somewhat misleading because we're here at the RIM show, talking about RIM applications," said Edwards.
She suggested that Coca-Cola Co., one of her company's chief competitors, is the driving force behind SAP's BlackBerry strategy. During his presentation, Jones alluded to a deal SAP signed with "the world's largest beverage company" that will result in 30,000 of its workers using mySAP CRM on BlackBerry.
Still, Jones said the applications would be advantageous for companies using both the BlackBerry platform and NetWeaver, SAP's back-end software stack that offers Web application server, portal, BI and reporting functionality. That combination, he said, would give mobile users the ability to access SAP applications and data that could otherwise only be reached from a PC with a secure connection.
Attendee John Davis, a technology architect with a Delaware-based chemical company, said the applications might be helpful to his company's mobile workforce. The chemical maker, which uses SAP, is piloting BlackBerrys on its IBM Lotus Domino messaging infrastructure.
Davis said there's a growing sentiment in his company that mobile applications are the way of the future, especially in developing countries where mobile workers can't easily access PCs. However, his firm's future mobile application plans are on hold until his company can determine the business value.