The Way to Mendocino
Microsoft and SAP have announced a joint product, Mendocino, which ties SAP business process functions to Microsoft Office applications to maximize user efficiency. The product is aimed at knowledge workers whose primary tools are the Microsoft Office suite of applications. By linking SAP's forthcoming business process platform to the ubiquitous Office apps, users will have greater access to enterprise data, providing greater data management and visibility for better and faster business decisions, according to the companies. SAP processes, including budget oversight, travel and expenses, time management, and organizational management, will be available via extended menus and an SAP smart panel, will synchronize data throughout the applications packages, and allow free import and export of SAP data in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and Microsoft Office InfoPath forms.
The partnership surrounding Mendocino allows both companies to resell the complete package--Microsoft will sell licenses for SAP's business process platform, while SAP will offer Microsoft Office. Mendocino will be made available on a selective basis as soon as the fourth quarter of 2005; the BP platform around which it will be built is expected to be available on its own sometime in 2006. Automotive industry supplier Siemens VDO is slated to implement Mendocino to provide information workers with better time management capabilities, while allowing supervisors a firmer hand on billings and budgetary issues.
There is some question among industry experts over just how big a stretch this will be. "Microsoft and SAP have been working together and doing this sort of thing with APIs and modules for years now," says Chris Selland, principal analyst for Covington Associates. "Now they've wrapped it in a bow and are selling 10 years of partnership as a new product."
According to Sheryl Kingstone, industry analyst and program manager for Yankee Group, this sort of cooperation is nothing new to either company, or the industry in general. "There have been countless initiatives with application vendors trying to get closer to Microsoft Office, and with Microsoft Office trying to get closer to popular applications. Mendocino may be emblematic of the continuing push toward SOA and Web services, but is it going to revolutionize the way knowledge workers do business? We need more information."
Another possible motive, according to Selland, is Microsoft's shying away from its attempt at branching out into hardcore business applications. "Is this the result of last year's merger/partnership talks between SAP and Microsoft? Probably not," Selland says. "Microsoft might be questioning its entry into the enterprise software market, and this is a compromise that distracts from Microsoft CRM." According to Selland, both companies will benefit from Mendocino, though SAP stands to gain relatively more by making Microsoft question its place in the enterprise market. This sort of well-mannered struggle, which Kingstone terms cooperatition, (a combination of cooperation and competition) will likely not make a noticeable mark in either company's revenue, but may change the nature of their relationship.
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