SAP to unveil products for partner extranets

Enterprise applications vendor SAP is putting a bigger bet on the Internet through System, a combination of its core business applications combined with electronic-commerce; online services; application hosting; and its recently announced information portal,

System will be unveiled in September at the SAPphire user group in Philadelphia and will be generally available later in the year, said Hasso Plattner, CEO and co-chairman of SAP.

System is the biggest evolutionary leap for SAP since it launched its flagship client/server suite, R/3, in the early 1990s, said Gunther Tolkmit, senior vice president of global marketing at SAP. Just as R/3 first unified applications on a single database for nearly all aspects of a business, including manufacturing, logistics, finances, human resources, and order management, now System promises to tie businesses into a larger network of trading partners and information sources, he said.

Applications from R/3 and SAP's New Dimensions line of software for e-commerce, sales, supply-chain planning, and business intelligence will be the foundation of the System; will provide the MyYahoo-like desktop interface as well as sites for e-commerce trading communities, he said.

Later versions of the portal will include more third-party Web-based services, such as tracking FedEx packages and links to Microsoft's MSN and other content providers.

System will support Extensible Markup Language (XML) "because that is the new content standard -- the lingua franca of the Internet", Tolkmit said.

The Internet's influence now also means more emphasis on hosted and outsourced applications because customers have told SAP they find that a faster, more convenient way to set up and use their products, Tolkmit said.

SAP is hosting a new test bed for System, called the Internet Demonstration and Evaluation System (IDES). By using it, prospective customers can sample and even configure System to their tastes, then move the configured templates to an application service provider or their own server.

Although SAP has been much later to build Internet applications than its competitors, such as Oracle, it's likely to become dominant in this field, said Byron Miller, an analyst at the Giga Information Group. Like Microsoft, it began throwing huge resources into developing Internet products that have very good prospects in the market, he said.

However, the similar, somewhat confusing terms for the portal and the overall System strategy show that SAP "is still working things out" in terms of exactly what products will fill what roles, Miller added.

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