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SAP expands hosted offerings

ORLANDO - SAP will expand its hosted software offerings by adding a supplier relationship management product, its second on-demand service.

It will come through the company’s acquisition of Frictionless Commerce, a Cambridge, Mass.-based privately-held provider of SRM applications for large and mid-size firms, SAP said at its annual Sapphire conference here. No purchase price was announced.

No date was set for the debut of the product, to join SAP CRM On Demand.

However, SAP executives said the channel should rejoice rather than be concerned that the German-based software giant is expanding into directly providing software.

“Over time every offering will be made available through all of our capabilities, direct, indirect, VARs, resellers and ISVs,” said Leo Apotheker, president of SAP customer solutions.

Later, Emile Lee, an SAP Canada spokesman, said that partners will be able to sell CRM On Demand starting next year, although he didn’t have a date. In the meantime partners will be able to refer customers interested in the online service to SAP’s sales staff and will be compensated if it leads to a sale. The compensation will be worked out with the partner, Lee said.

Shai Agassi, president of SAP’s product and technology group, also told reporters and analysts that the company’s hosted services offer opportunities for the channel.

SAP CRM now comes in two versions, he said: On Demand, and a version that customers can buy and install on their premises. The two share the same code and can be linked through SAP’s services oriented architecture to give corporate managers access to information captured by both applications.

A manufacturer could use CRM On Demand for online customers and distributors, he said, while having the SAP CRM system internally. Because the two systems can be linked, retailers can view customer data captured when they go online to research products.

“To do that you need a complete hybrid solution with an integrated platform, and VARs can create that kind of e-presence and the integration,” Agasi said. “That’s why this is a more exciting opportunity for VARs than a pure play (online software company) can offer.”

An estimated 15,000 SAP customers, partners, and suppliers have gathered here to learn about the company’s strategies for the coming year.

Executives are heavily promoting its services oriented architecture, called enterprise services architecture (ESA), which it announced in 2004 will eventually be part of all of its products.

The firm said it hopes to release 500 free enterprise Web services next month to enable NetWeaver users to create business processes faster than through conventional coding.

SAP CEO Henning Kagermann, said mySAP ERP 2007, which will have full ESA capabilities, will be delivered next year.

Also next year will be new versions of its NetWeaver integration and portal application, which will become what the firm calls a business process platform and a version of All-in-One on NetWeaver.

Kagermann also revealed a new rich client interface for mySAP it has been working on called Project Muse. Depending on the response it may replace the SAP client interface, he said.

SAP also released a business intelligence appliance called BI accelerator, which will be available from IBM and HP.