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SAP: Without Mobile, There Ain't No Real-Time Enterprise

At its SAP Influencer Summit today, SAP executives showed off the potential of a real-time enterprise, with an amazingly fast demo of its in-memory technology, HANA. But it also emphasized that enterprise-enabled mobile devices are a necessary part of the next-generation foundation.

It's undeniable that the PC is superior to a smartphone or tablet for many things. Desktop publishing or extensive data entry, for example. But cynics forget that the converse is also true: mobile devices are better than PCs, even laptops, in a whole mess of scenarios.

All of these revolve around the convenience of mobile devices, which are way more portable, start up more quickly, and run longer without a charge than PCs. That makes them a necessary ingredient for enabling the coming real-time enterprise.

Take the large consumer packaged goods (CPG) company that is now able to process 460 billion point-of-sale transaction records in 60 seconds using SAP's new HANA in-memory technology, according to a demo by SAP CTO Vishal Sikka at the SAP Influencer Summit today.

Processing that data so quickly is academic, unless it can get to the right managers quickly. That requires mobile devices in the hands of managers, and mobile extensions to these applications.

SAP (full disclosure, my parent company) knows all of these components need to be place. Which is why HANA data can be viewed on iPad today, and why it evangelizes the use of tablets for mobile Business Intelligence, to the point that its executives are all using Business Objects Explorer on the iPad to show that the company, as the saying goes, eats its dogfood.

Similarly, SAP senior vice-president Sanjay Poonen is looking forward to a future when SAP's Human Resources application is brought to mobile devices.

And it's why statements like "Mobile is the desktop of the future" by Sybase executive vice-president Raj Nathan aren't hollow marketing hype, but actually ring true.

As Nathan pointed out in his keynote, there are already more than 5.2 billion mobile phones worldwide, versus 2.2 billion toothbrushes.

In the Mobile 1.0 era, companies merely extended things like e-mail and calendar and rudimentary apps to mobile devices, said Nathan. That boosted efficiency.

But it wasn't transformative, not in the way a company like the CPG firm quoted above will be able to gain leapfrog competitors if and when it deploys the tools to become a real-time enterprise.

That's the opportunity for enterprises in the coming Mobile 2.0 era.

Analysts like Forrester Research analyst Robert Karel and IDC's Dan Vesset seem to agree.

Nathan closed his speech by declaring that based on Sybase's recent mobile customer wins as well as the coming pipeline, the premium that SAP paid for Sybase will be recouped within 3 years.

That may seem ambitious, considering that SAP paid $5.8 billion for Sybase. But it's not outlandish at all when you consider that Google was willing to pay even more than that for two-year-old e-mail coupon site.