SAP's apps get mobile on BlackBerrys

SAP and Research In Motion (RIM) have announced a strategic partnership to develop the enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendor's applications on the BlackBerry platform.

The first development will be a native BlackBerry smartphone client for SAP's customer relationship management (CRM) application, so that it will integrate and automatically synchronise data with RIM's mobile platform applications, including BlackBerry email, address book and calendar.

This SAP/RIM alliance also promises to cut the cost of IT infrastructure investment, deployment, ownership and training by offering pre-packaged applications ported to work on the BlackBerry aimed at sales and field support forces with central management and control capabilities.

As part of the work delivered through the partnership, RIM said it will enhance its framework for building workflow-enabled mobile applications for the BlackBerry platform. The framework will serve as the basis for developing mobile applications for other solutions in the SAP business application suite.

SAP added that its development would take advantage of the BlackBerry's ability to work offline in the absence of network coverage, by queueing updates and automatically upload them when network coverage is restored without user action, as well as the security in the BlackBerry server functionality.

The vendors said in this way they would work together to enhance enterprise productivity on the move, allowing mobile users "to work freely on SAP, no longer tethered to their desktops or offices in order to perform their jobs".

Recent IDC research forecast the worldwide mobile worker population would increase from about 800 million in 2007, accounting for 25.7 per cent of the worldwide workforce, to one billion in 2011, amounting to growth of 4.7 per cent.

Rob Bamforth, principal Quocirca analyst, told IT PRO that the announcement had the potential to be significant, but that the devil may be in the detail.

"I like the idea of doing more with the BlackBerry platform," he said. "It's a very good platform that's been just used for very simple email applications. But my main concern is would own it and takes care of it in terms of future development."

He added: "We've seen attempts by major vendors to develop their own mobile web clients, but they petered out because they don't own the client platform and so their future can't be assured. And I'm always suspicious of deals that tie applications to the client device."

Having made the announcement today at 5pm UK time, neither SAP or RIM available to answer questions about how the partnership would work from a support perspective, but they suggested they were are already some way to taking their partnership to market.

Without naming when SAP CRM for BlackBerry would be commercially available, they announced that it will be previewed at SAP's annual SAPPHIRE conferences in Orlando, 4 to 7 May and Berlin, 19 to 21 May, as well as at the Wireless Enterprise Symposium (WES) 2008 in Orlando, 13 to 15 May.

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.