The Cube’s John Furrier, Founder, Silicon Angle and Dave Vellante, Co-founder, Wikibon, interviewed Thorsten Stephan, VP Mobile Applications Unit, SAP at this year’s SAP Sapphire Now in Orlando, FL about SAP’s mobile strategy (see full video below). SAP is clearly making a large effort to rebrand itself as a company that offers technology solutions everywhere, and mobile is a core component of that transition. According to Stephan, SAP wants to provide customers best of class, highly user-centric mobile applications. The company has already created a robust core mobile platform, and is now focusing on creating and shipping applications.
Vellante questioned Stephan, who has been with SAP for 15 years, about when SAP first realized it was important to embrace mobile technology. Although Stephan didn’t provide a concrete time frame, he explained SAP has had specialized mobile offerings for many years. However, a few years ago, after observing the impact of the iPhone, iPad and other smart mobile devices, SAP recognized that the consumption of data and applications was fundamentally changing, and they needed to change as well. SAP wanted to ensure their applications were available everywhere users worked. Stephan continued, “It was a natural next thing to do.”
According to Stephan the utility, manufacturing and petroleum industries could significantly benefit from mobile adoption. However, SAP has not focused on creating mobile offerings for specific sectors. SAP has included a few industry customizations, but the company has primarily designed its mobile solutions to work across industries. Stephan explained that SAP’s strategy to support verticals is really about empowering its partners. Stephan described SAP’s mobile products as very flexible, which allows the company’s partners to enhance the applications to meet specific industry requirements.
Growing the SAP Mobile Ecosystem
SAP is making a significant investment in its partner ecosystem. The company encourages partners to participate in trade shows, offers certification and provides recognition to partners. Furrier asked how SAP planned to attract non-SAP developers to its platform – something critical for SAP to gain true traction in the mobile space. Stephan said that SAP is adopting open industry standards like OData. SAP has also partnered with other companies to provide services on top of their platform to make it easier to use for mobile developers. Stephan said where ever developers can extend the native processes SAP supports to mobile, it adds value. Although SAP has new partnerships focused on mobile development, Stephan did not provide a concrete time frame for when he sees adoption of SAP’s mobile platform really gaining momentum.
In addition to SAP’s efforts to attract developer interest, they also have to provide guidance and address customer concerns about moving to mobile. Stephan said that businesses are concerned about how they will support the wide variety of devices employees are requesting and the security impacts of allowing employee owned devices to connect to their network. SAP has solutions to address security concerns, and Stephan advised that cautious organizations should start by adding mobile support in a single area where the technology is a natural fit like travel expense management.
The Cube concluded the interview by asking what’s the future of mobile. Stephan predicts that the future is convergence. The distinctions between consumer and enterprise technology will continue to erode. That sounds like a pretty good prediction to us.