Nine months. It can seem like an eternity or it can fly by in a flash. For the developers at SAP and Sybase tasked with developing an “unwired platform,” the next nine months are most likely going to seem very short and for SAP users hungry for mobile SAP, it will seem like an eternity.
Last Thursday, officials from SAP and the newly acquired Sybase held a press conference in Boston outlining its fairly aggressive strategy for Sybase going forward. In nine months, SAP will deliver an “unwired platform” leveraging Sybase technology that will mobilize SAP’s product suites.
It was one of those moments in a press conference when someone makes a statement and you see all the pens and keyboards in the room suddenly come to life. Even if you didn’t know anything about SAP, you knew that what co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe just said was a big deal.
Some market watchers say it’s a lofty goal – to effectively unwire SAP’s product line in nine months after close to 40 years of “wired” development. But isn’t that what innovation is about? A company like SAP doesn’t get to where it is by setting easily attainable goals. And SAP has certainly been doing some mobile work on its own and with partners like Sybase. (That being said, SAP may want to consider buying its own coffee plantation for its development teams this winter).
The addition of Sybase’s CEO John Chen to the team will no doubt help drive some of that innovation at SAP. Co-CEO Bill McDermott referred to Chen as a "technology luminary" during his presentation. As Chen explained, he pushed Sybase way ahead on the mobile curve, focusing on mobile development right after the dot-com crash when most businesspeople were still getting used to their first cell phones (and the idea of accessing enterprise software on them would have seemed impossible). He said that Sybase realized that the development of 3G was basically “a highway without cars” because business software hadn’t truly mobilized yet.
There was one useful reminder made in the press conference to keep in mind when considering SAP's move to mobile: “mobile” doesn’t just mean “mobile phone.” It means retail and supply chain devices, it means iPads and tablets for business, it means machine-to-machine data transfer accesible on mobile devices, and it could mean something we haven’t even imagined yet (but Apple is probably already in testing with).
All in all, it’s going to be an exciting year for SAP, its customers and the market watchers out there. I'd love to hear others' thoughts on this timeline.
For more on this press conference, see:
SAP and Sybase announce three-pronged strategy