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SAP Taking Action to Ensure No Mobile Developer Left Behind

As the big dog in enterprise applications and a relative newbie to platforms, SAP hasn't always been the most responsive to smaller developers. But in mobility, it's taking pains to change that.

The Sybase Unwired Platform has generated a fair amount of interest this past year from enterprise developers. But to be honest, there's been frustration, too.

The frustration comes not from the SUP technology itself, which made a huge leap with version 2.0 this May with the launch of two major new features: 1) the ability for tens of millions of Web developers to code for mobile in languages familiar to them such as HTML5, Javascript and CSS; 2) the ability to create 'hybrid' apps that run inside a Web browser (for easy porting between, for example, between Android and iOS) while still offering the rich UI of a native app.

Nor was it the frustration of developers who felt trapped in the uneasy situation of feeling reliant upon and competitive with SAP in enterprise mobility. Any experienced enterprise developer has probably dealt with co-optition before. Microsoft, for instance, is one of the biggest sellers of applications on its own Window platform. And Google this summer bought Motorola, putting it in competition with its many Android handset and tablet partners.

While SAP has brought out 30+ mobile apps of its own, it has also taken pains to reassure and woo developers. For instance, the new SAP Store for Mobile Apps will only reap 15% of app revenue - just half of Apple's take from its App Store. SAP's public goal is to build an ecosystem such that partner apps outnumber its own 4 to 1. It pretty much hit that at SAPPHIRE Madrid, showcasing more than a hundred apps in development or nearing completion from partners.

Rather, the biggest complaints centered around these things:

1) difficulty for developers, especially those working at smaller or one-person shops, to get a trial copy of SUP 2.0;

2) the difficulty at getting trained at SUP right away;
3) the cost of SUP compared to other development platforms that have adopted freemium or other similar low upfront-cost models.

Developers can be a noisy bunch. So suffice to say that the frustration was palpable.

During deep-dive sessions at the SAP Influencer Summit last week, SAP and Sybase executives revealed plans to address these concerns. Thanks to SAP Mentor Dagfinn Parnas for being the first to tweet out that in 2012, SAP is planning to introduce:

1) a hands-on trial version of SUP for developers;

2) an SAP center to directly support SUP developers with learning resources, developer forums, access to experts, and more;

(This is not to diminish the ongoing efforts of people at Sybase like Stanley Stadelman, Loren Corbridge and others who have been working hard to produce materials such as the most recent "MBO Best Practices" white paper as well as the SUP Dev Blog.)

3) a new, less-expensive runtime license of SUP.

I don't have any more details at this point. But the reaction from developers in the SAP ecosystem has been positive.

The developer center is "excellent news," tweeted Australian developer, John Moy. "It will certainly improve developer engagement...Whatever gets the technology in the hands of developers easily and freely is what matters."

Moy also applauded the SUP run-time license. "If true, this improves [the] value prop" for companies who are only interested in running apps built upon SUP (which requires an SUP run-time license), but are not planning to develop their own custom apps on SUP. The latter still requires a full SUP license.

Another developer, Kevin Grove, tweeted to me that this "sounds like win-win for all. And it reaffirms that SAP listen to the #SAPCommnet dialogue."

What are your thoughts? Is SAP and Sybase doing enough to ensure that no mobile developer is left behind?