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SAP and Apple Partner for Enterprise Mobility

The enterprise mobility partnership SAP and Apple Inc. announced this week has an interesting BI and analytics angle.

SAP and Apple announced a joint effort to deliver SAP mobile apps for Apple’s iPhone and iPad iOS devices. The two companies plan to offer a new HANA Cloud Platform software development kit (SDK) for iOS. (HANA Cloud Platform is SAP’s platform-as-a-service offering.)

SAP and Apple claim that the SDK and other resources (such as a planned “SAP Academy for iOS”) will make it easier for developers, partners, and customers to build mobile SAP apps optimized for the iPhone and iPad. These apps will also be consistent with SAP’s new “Fiori” user experience.

SAP is still best known as a purveyor of enterprise applications -- the “ERP” applications of old. In fact, the joint press release issued by the two companies trumpeted this association:  “As the leader in enterprise software and with 76 percent of business transactions touching an SAP system, SAP is the ideal partner to help us truly transform how businesses around the world are run on iPhone and iPad,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in the statement. “We’re empowering SAP’s more than 2.5 million developers to build powerful native apps that fully leverage SAP HANA Cloud Platform and tap into the ... capabilities that only iOS devices can deliver.”

In addition to its enterprise apps pedigree, however, SAP is a respected BI, analytics, and data management (DM) powerhouse. It acquired the former Business Objects SA -- one of the big three independent BI suite players -- almost a decade ago.

Since then, it’s acquired countless BI and analytics vendors, including the former Sybase Inc., which gave it a best-of-breed relational database (Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise), an analytics database (Sybase IQ), a mobile database (Sybase SQL Anywhere), and DM (Sybase Replication, Sybase Data Federation) technology.

Then there’s Roambi, which SAP acquired in February. Roambi made its name -- and carved out its market niche -- as a specialty provider of mobile BI apps and services for iOS. It has since expanded to support Android, Windows Mobile, and Google’s Chrome OS.

Roambi’s seminal Flow app is a native application for iOS that’s able to serve up analytics, text, graphics, and collaborative content. Remember the "Cover Flow" feature Apple introduced with its iPod Touch? Imagine something similar to Cover Flow optimized for data visualizations, charts, and spreadsheets. That’s Roambi Flow.

In addition to Flow, Roambi markets iOS-optimized apps for analytics (Roambi Analytics) and analytics discovery (Roambi Blink). Is it possible, then, that Roambi’s iOS app development expertise might factor into the SAP-Apple mobility partnership?

It certainly will -- albeit not necessarily in the form of conventional BI or analytics apps. The dedicated BI or analytics app is something of a dinosaur, at least in the mobile space. Instead, SAP will likely encourage the development of function-, process-, and domain-specific iOS apps. These apps consume BI and analytics insights, but are each specific to a particular use case.

For example, SAP and Apple described scenarios -- an on-site maintenance worker who needs to order a replacement part, a doctor who wants to share health data with a patient -- that have notional BI and/or analytics implications.

Take the maintenance-worker scenario. Does the company have the necessary part? If so, where is it? What are the logistics of getting it out to the site? Will the company also have to dispatch a skilled technician to install it? If so, where is that technician located? The answers to these questions will be stitched together from data in different SAP modules.

In promoting their partnership, SAP and Apple noted that mobile access to SAP data and business processes will permit more timely (as well as actionable) decision-making. That’s the essence of BI.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a technology writer with 20 years of experience. His writing has focused on business intelligence, data warehousing, and analytics for almost 15 years. Swoyer has an abiding interest in tech, but he’s particularly intrigued by the thorny people and process problems technology vendors never, ever want to talk about. You can contact him at [email protected].

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