SAP aims to empower mobile workforce

Following its Sybase acquisition, the German software maker is now looking to make its applications run on multiple mobile devices and enable workers to work on-the-go, reveals senior exec.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor on

As more employees move from PCs and notebooks to mobile devices such as smartphones and Apple's iPad, SAP is looking to tap this trend by making its software device-agnostic so they can enable the mobile workforce to perform better, says an executive.

SAP Asia-Pacific and Japan President Stephen Watts told ZDNet Asia in an interview Tuesday that the software vendor is looking to "accelerate" its existing core competencies, particularly in mobile computing--a move enabled by the finalization of its Sybase acquisition on Jul. 30.

The German company's four core business strategies look at "on-demand, on-premise, on-device and the orchestration process and management that links all three environments together", Watts explained, noting that SAP is looking to scale up the "on-device" thrust using Sybase's existing core strengths in mobile workflow.

Sybase had previously championed the concept of an unwired enterprise and was working on developmental tools for building mobile applications.

Watts observed that with the multiple mobile devices available today, SAP is hoping to exploit this environment by developing applications that can run on any device. Such tools would remove the constraints of workers and allow them to work beyond the office space, and enable companies not to be bogged down by vendor lock-in challenges. This market represents an "enormous opportunity" for the software vendor, he noted.

He further noted three market developments that he said were fueling SAP's interest in the mobile compute space: the "masses of data" being produced every day and how these are being consumed by users, the proliferation of smart devices such as Apple's iPhone and iPad and Research In Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry, and how these devices are empowering employees down the management layer to contribute more to their companies.

"[With these developments in mind], I believe that one-third of all establishments will be mobile companies by 2012," Watts said.

Asked how Asia-Pacific would play into the company's overall "on-device" strategy, the executive said the region is "an important part of the mix". He added that countries such as China and India and emerging markets such as Vietnam and Indonesia have users that are accessing data beyond just e-mail and are asking for applications that can give them better insight into their companies' operations.

That said, he noted that SAP will not neglect its existing customer base in Europe and the United States as these mature markets still have room for growth.

Positive half-year report
SAP on Tuesday also released its second-quarter 2010 financial report that recorded strong growth, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. Revenue for the company's software and software-related services in the region, excluding Japan, for the quarter grew 18 percent to 307 million euros (US$405.9 million), while total revenue grew 9 percent over the same period last year.

These figures compared favorably with the company's overall performance as its global software and software-related services revenue rose 16 percent--2 percent lower than Asia-Pacific's growth--to hit 2.26 billion euros (US$2.99 billion), according to its press release.

According to Watts, the fastest growth area for the SAP's overall software portfolio in the region is data analytics.

He added that Southeast Asia was a "star" performer during the first half of this year, with Singapore and Malaysia posting strong results and contributing to the region's "strong" double-digit growth rate. He is also "bullish" about the economic recovery of Thailand, particularly after the political upheaval the country had to endure earlier this year.

"As long as we continue having incremental growth in China and India, and grow our mature markets such as Australia, New Zealand and Japan, I believe SAP will have a good future in the region," said Watts.

Following its Sybase acquisition, analysts said the buyout would improve SAP's mobility products and help the company gain market share in the region's database software market. The acquisition would also boost SAP's presence in verticals such as healthcare and finance, according to analysts.

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