Sapphire lights up

Sapphire lights up

By Paul Montgomery

Enterprise resource planning giant SAP has officially launched its enterprise information portal initiative in the Asia/Pacific region at the Singapore version of its Sapphire user conference.

Calling the new interface to the 4.6 version of the SAP suite an "enterprise management portal", co-chairman and CEO Henning Kagermann used his keynote address to urge Asian businesses to abandon closed networks and technologies like electronic data interchange (EDI) in favour of the Marketplace, which is a business-to-business e-commerce Web site.

"With one look, a manager can have a very detailed picture of their business, with not just key performance indicators, but alerts as well," Prof Kagermann said.

In a briefing after his speech, Prof Kagermann said it would be "ridiculous not to be open" to other networks and applications, including Hewlett-Packard's concept of e-services and Oracle's Business Online, which are likely to be the main competing technologies to

He said that SAP had been working on interoperability with HP, and had also published the specifications for its "Webflow" technology in the hope that it would become an industry standard.

The interface can be personalised along role-based lines, as with this example of a CEO's desktop.

The prospect of competing with Microsoft for control of the corporate desktop also did not worry Prof Kagermann, who said that while consumers might be familiar with the Windows interface from playing games on home PCs, SAP's focus was at the office with its Workplace offering, which is most similar to the "traditional" concept of the enterprise information portal.

"SAP has much more to bring to the table than Microsoft," he said. "In the future, people will ask for the desktop for their business, which means [it has to be] role-based."

Kagermann acknowledged that the company was entering into partial competition with knowledge management vendors like PC DOCS, FileNET and Open Text with its portal push, but he said that SAP was in that industry already.

"We will have, to some extent, competition [with KM vendors], and we will also collaborate. We realise that SAP cannot provide all of the content," he said.