SAPPHIRE: Microsoft and SAP to link Office with ERP

SAP AG and Microsoft Corp. plan to deliver a jointly developed product later this year that links SAP's enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and Microsoft's Office products, the companies announced Tuesday.

The product, code-named Mendocino, is the first joint product from SAP and Microsoft and will be demonstrated at SAP's Sapphire customer event this week in Copenhagen.

"We're joining forces to bridge a gap with our first joint product, which we will develop, support and market together," said SAP Chief Executive Officer Henning Kagermann, in a keynote speech Tuesday at the start of Sapphire.

The joint product stems from an agreement that SAP and Microsoft struck last year to integrate their respective NetWeaver and .Net software platforms, Kagermann said. He didn't mention what other joint products the two companies plan.

Microsoft and SAP have been partners for many years and have even discussed a merger. The joint product is one of the most significant results of that partnership since the merger talks broke off last year, and could help SAP and Microsoft compete better against Oracle Corp. and IBM Corp.

Desktop and enterprise applications are "almost seen as being disconnected," Jeff Raikes, group vice president of information worker business at Microsoft, told users at the Sapphire event. Much of the information stored in desktops does not find its way into enterprise applications because it has to be rekeyed, he said.

As a result, workers waste time looking for information. The aim of Mendocino is to provide the "right information at the right time" and to make tasks transparent and simple, Raikes said.

By linking SAP's software with Office, users will get a familiar user interface to often more complex ERP applications. "We think this is another opportunity to expose our products to a broader range of users inside a corporation. There are a lot of users who don't use SAP functionality today," said Bill Wohl, an SAP spokesman.

Mendocino will connect Office 2003 and the current version of MySAP ERP. Users in a consulting firm, for example, will be able to instantly book time against a specific client in the SAP time tracking system when they schedule an appointment in Microsoft's Outlook, Wohl said.

The joint product will integrate SAP's time management, budget monitoring, organizational management, and travel and expense management directly into Office, the companies said in a statement. With the new product, information workers will be able to use extended application menus and select process options and information in the SAP smart panel, synchronize information between Microsoft Exchange Server and SAP, retrieve SAP information in Microsoft Excel, and submit data via Microsoft Office InfoPath forms, they said.

Mendocino and some underlying SAP technology it is being built on will be sold by both SAP and Microsoft. The product will be "easy to configure and easy to put in place," according to Wohl. Pricing has yet to be determined.

The code name picked for the product is the name of a town in California located midway between SAP's office in Palo Alto, California, and Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington, Wohl said.

At Sapphire, SAP also announced a deal with Macromedia Inc., which, like the Microsoft partnership, aims at enhancing end-user interfaces.

Under the deal, SAP will combine its NetWeaver integration platform and NetWeaver Visual Composer with Macromedia's Flex presentation system, allowing developers to visually design application logic and process flows to make Internet applications easier to use.

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