SAP and Research in Motion have teamed up to bring SAP’s back-end business applications, beginning with CRM, to BlackBerry devices. The companies Friday unveiled a co-development partnership that executives called a “game changer” for the mobile business market at a press conference at SAP’s office in New York. SAP Chief Information Officer Oliver Bussman told The Wall Street Journal that all of the company’s ERP applications are being readied for the tablet. “SAP is definitely supporting the RIM Playbook,” Bussman said.
That’s good for RIM, which is hoping that loyalty on the part of its BlackBerry business customers will carry over to the Playbook. The company wants to avoid obsolescence at the hands of Apple’s hugely popular iPad tablet, as well as iPad competitors such as Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, which runs Google’s Android operating system.
Though the Apple device hasn’t been touted as a tool for businesses, that’s started to change as corporate IT departments have begun embracing the iPad–in part because of its popularity with employees. Last month, AT&T pitched businesses a discounted wireless data plan for the iPad.
SAP itself has welcomed the Apple device. Bussman told the Journal that the company is currently supporting nearly 2,000 of the gadgets–for use by its software developers, executives, and sales force–and is adding another 300 to 500 iPads to the fold every month. He said SAP is also considering the use of Android-based tablets, and that it will start using the Playbook in about a month.
SAP’s CRM is the first application that will run natively on the BlackBerry, but eventually the companies plan to build mobile versions of SAP’s applications — including ERP (enterprise resource planning) and supply chain — for BlackBerry devices, said Bill McDermott, president and CEO of SAP Americas, Asia Pacific and Japan.
“This is a major win for RIM and for SAP, but much more importantly for any mobile professional that works anywhere in the world today,” he said. McDermott said that until now, CRM has failed salespeople because of the inherent mobility of their jobs. “They don’t want to be chained to a desktop or tethered to the wall; they want to be out on the street selling something to somebody who needs a solution,” he said. McDermott called putting CRM on the BlackBerry platform empowering them “at the tip of the spear where the relationship happens with the customer.”
According to research firm IDC, there will be about 1 billion mobile business users by 2011, which will represent about 30 percent of the workforce. Mobile devices are increasingly becoming essential for business users who need to be connected to the Web and their e-mail and other business applications all of the time.
The deal between RIM and SAP is not an exclusive partnership, though RIM Chairman and CEO Jim Baisillie said there are no similar partnerships with other application providers planned at this time. Still, his comments seemed to suggest RIM will pair with other application providers to bring their software to the Web, and that SAP, too, may bring its applications to other mobile platforms.
McDermott said SAP employees are the first customers of SAP CRM on the BlackBerry platform, and RIM’s executives and employees also are using it. The companies plan to preview it at SAP’s Sapphire conference next week in Orlando, and should roll it out to customers in the next couple of months, he added.