SAP has acquired the assets of Coghead minus any of its customers following Coghead's demise. As Rafe Needleman says over at CNet, this paves the way for others to swoop in and sweep up stranded customers although there is some doubt whether this will work. I received a 'safe harbor' email from Caspio and Intuit are named as the other contender for Coghead's customer base. Where there is some confusion is in the background and explanation to SAP's acquisition.
First up, Coghead was an SAP Ventures portfolio company. SAP Ventures often serves as a late stage testing ground investor for new technologies. Behind the scenes in both SAP Labs in Palo Alto and through the independent NetWeaver developer community, SAP has been playing with small cloud based applications and widgets. Many of these are demonstrated at the various TechEd's that SAP hosts around the world. Last year, I was part of a team that demonstrated an enterprise class 'Twitter' running on a behind the firewall instance of the NetWeaver stack. Most recently, SAP showed a demonstration of integration between Twitter and SAP CRM as part of its Business Suite 7 launch.
Second, and contrary to reports on TechCrunch, in the last few years, I have heard no substantive stories or seen substantive information that suggests SAP is materially losing ground to Salesforce.com. I can only assume TechCrunch has been sucking a little too much of Marc Benioff's kool-aid, although some might accuse me of doing the same as regards SAP. ;)
Third, this is not a 'look towards the cloud' but a technology acquisition investment that SAP was able to do at favorable terms. SAP can opportunistically build on its stated objective to provide 'tuck-in' applications that customers can use to extend their existing applications portfolio. There is after all a reason why John Wookey, who formally ran Oracle's Fusion Apps development joined SAP to work on SAP's on-demand applications development.
Fourth, Coghead's 'gallery' approach is a neat fit to SAP's recently launched EcoHub, a digital marketplace where third party vendors can offer their wares.
Finally, I believe it is important to disentangle 'clouds' from 'saas/on-demand.' The enterprise market is nothing like the consumer led market. It is perfectly conceiveable that large enterprise will run their own private cloud based landscapes. Equally, other scenarios in the SMB market might well run across instances of Amazon, Joyent, or any of the other emerging cloud players. Mangling the terms together is only a recipe for confusion.