SAP Makes More Moves On Mobility
With an eye on shoring up its position in the mobile market and continued efforts surrounding its enterprise service-oriented architecture (SOA) initiative, SAP has unveiled new and enhanced mobile applications for information workers. Among the offerings are composite applications for sales professionals, retail clerks, service technicians, and delivery staff, as well as an updated installment of the company's mobile infrastructure.
That infrastructure--SAP NetWeaver Mobile--provides the foundation for the company's mobile solutions and allows organizations to build customized applications by using enterprise SOA. (SAP NetWeaver Mobile is expected to be available on a restricted basis in November 2007.) The firm's mobile applications, which are customizable, are integrated with SAP Business Suite and also can be combined with non-SAP applications.
The company has refreshed SAP xApp Mobile Sales (a composite application that allows users to remotely access customer and product information) to enable sales professionals to remotely conduct trade-promotion evaluations and access customer feedback. SAP xApp Mobile Sales, which is available immediately, also incorporates new functionality specifically geared toward sales reps in the consumer packaged goods industry, promising the ability to use mobile devices to more effectively audit sales and manage customer profiles.
A second new vertical-specific release, SAP Mobile In-Store Inventory Management, is another composite application that extends SAP for Retail solutions to mobile devices by arming retail clerks with mobile access to inventory data. The company expects SAP Mobile In-Store Inventory to be available in Q3 of this year.
Additionally, the company has tweaked its composite applications for field service technicians and delivery employees. On the field service side is SAP xApp Mobile Asset Management, which lets techs remotely access work orders and equipment information; the software now features a geographic information system and incorporates RFID technology. While these features are available immediately, a new handheld version of SAP xApp Mobile Service, which will let techs access work orders and customer service histories, is slated for a 2008 release. Meanwhile, the enhanced version of SAP xApp Mobile Direct Store Delivery provides delivery personnel with simpler payment processing and inventory control, according to the company.
SAP executives were quick to highlight the updates' ease-of-use and impact on efficiency. "The new mobile solutions announced today focus on giving information workers simple access to data anytime, anywhere--and add to our already strong portfolio of solutions that allow business users to interact simply with enterprise applications," Doug Merritt, a corporate officer at SAP, a member of the company's Executive Council, and head of business user development, said in a statement.
SAP claims that more than 850 customers are currently using its mobile functionality--but that represents just a fraction of the company's users. "In a customer base that ranges up to about 20,000 it's a small number, and it shows how far mobility solutions have to go," says Denis Pombriant, managing principal at Beagle Research. "A recent Forrester report concluded that approximately 20 percent of its survey respondents have implemented mobility solutions and this seems to square with that. It's still anyone's game to win but SAP has certainly provided some interesting solutions."
Pombriant adds, though, that SAP may be in a better position than some of its rivals when it comes to understanding the mobile market. "It has been long known that the North American mobile market lags behind Asian and European mobile markets," he says. "Factors like higher-speed networks, a reduced number of operating-system and network standards helps other regions to be more competitive in this area. That said, the issue at hand is application level functionality--and the announcement points to several areas such as retail and consumer goods where SAP may have a competitive advantage."
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