SAP revs up mobile application strategy

New applications, an SDK and a partnership with Accenture were announced Tuesday

SAP is giving its ongoing push into mobile applications an extra shove with a series of new products aimed at verticals such as utilities, energy, retail and manufacturing, the company announced Tuesday during the Sapphire Now conference in Orlando.

As was expected, the company also announced a version of the Sybase Unwired Platform for mobile application development, which it gained through last year's acquisition of Sybase. A new SDK (software development kit) for Unwired will be released in the next few months, according to a statement.

Among the new mobile applications is Field Service, a product aimed at technicians and other workers who are frequently away from a central location, servicing customers. The application will deliver these employees alerts about new assignments and provide mapping services, among other features.

A related product, EAM Work Order, gives technicians information about work orders, parts inventory and customer histories.

Another new product, Retail Execution, gives access to product lists and customer contact information, and allows employees to track and store information about visits to retail locations.

Roughly 20 mobile applications will be generally available in the next few months, according to SAP. Other areas tackled include human resources, supplier relationship management and customer relationship management.

SAP is not planning to build out a mobile portfolio by itself. Instead, the company has combined its own development efforts with an aggressive outreach to partners.

Many of those companies already have familiarity with Sybase Unwired and the related Afaria mobile management platform. SAP is hoping to spur even more interest in Unwired with the new SDK.

SAP's mobile development technologies include support for iOS, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile, with Android support coming soon, SAP said. Certified connectors can tie the mobile applications to back-end SAP systems, and security features include encrypted HTML5 Web storage and encrypted data transportation, SAP said.

Ultimately, partners will end up building thousands of mobile applications on Unwired that have hooks into SAP, co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe said during a press conference Tuesday.

Partners will have some flexibility in how they target Unwired, as it will be available via subscription or perpetual license, as well as in hosted form, Sybase CEO John Chen said in an interview. Sybase is run as an independent subsidiary of SAP.

Moving forward, SAP and Sybase will build about 10 percent of the mobile applications, with partners creating the other 90 percent, Chen said. Some will also be co-developed by SAP and partners, he added.

The new applications and the SDK were deliberately announced simultaneously in order to send a message to partners of their importance to SAP's mobility strategy, according to Chen.

Also Tuesday, SAP announced a major new partnership around mobility with systems integrator Accenture.

Under the pact, Accenture's Mobility Services division and SAP will jointly use Unwired to develop new mobile applications, with initial ones targeting oil and gas, utilities and consumer products, according to a statement.

Partners figure heavily in the company's mobility plans because they will give customers many more sources for mobile applications, alleviating any sense of lock-in, Chen said. "The customer feels like they're protected."

The Unwired Platform will remain open to development for all sorts of devices and to applications from any vendor, he added.

Mobility is one of three strategic areas SAP is pushing of late, along with in-memory computing and SaaS (software as a service).

SAP executives are expected to discuss all three topics during a keynote address Tuesday.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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