SAP, RIM to let BlackBerry users access ERP apps

SAP and Research in Motion Ltd. Friday announced a joint development effort that will allow corporate customers to access SAP business applications from BlackBerry mobile devices.

The companies said SAP CRM will be the first application to run on the Blackberry. The companies said the application will be available on the BlackBerry in a few months. Officials were not more specific.

During a press briefing today, RIM CEO Jim Balsillie said his company is currently developing a native BlackBerry smartphone client that will embed SAP CRM 2007 with BlackBerry applications including e-mail, address book and calendaring. He said the integrated technology will allow sales, marketing and IT personnel to enable event and alert-driven updates, augment productivity and create better data synchronization between business systems and mobile applications.

“When you go native, it’s powerful for PIM [personal information management] and messaging. The nativeness is the key element,” said Balsillie.

The companies have not yet devised a pricing model for the SAP CRM BlackBerry product.

The SAP-RIM announcement came just two days after SugarCRM Inc. began shipping a beta release of a new version of its Web-based customer relationship management software that adds support for the Blackberry and Apple Inc.’s iPhone device.

Bob Stutz, executive vice-president and general manager for Industries and CRM Products at SAP, said that SAP and RIM also plan to let users access the remainder of SAP’s application suite, including vertical industry software, at a later undisclosed date. “The plan is we’re starting with CRM, then we’re going to expand it around our full business suite and eventually every single SAP application will be running on a BlackBerry device,” remarked Stutz.

Balsillie said BlackBerry users can utilize “dozens of hours” of video on the mobile device in a cache for mobile training purposes, as well as integrated Global Positioning System capabilities to receive directions or location of an imported contact. In addition, he said the two companies are enabling an “Event to Call” system for SAP applications which can push outbound conference calls, IT support issues or public safety information in the event of an emergency.

Balsillie noted that RIM also hopes to support the applications of other vendors on the mobile device, but no announcement is imminent. “Even if [SAP] offered us an exclusive I wouldn’t want it,” he added.

SAP officials also noted that further down the road, it may let BlackBerry users access its hosted Business ByDesign service. Earlier this week, SAP cut back on its short-term ByDesign development plans after reporting poor first-quarter financial results.

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