Long on Promises
But while SAP and Sybase executives talk expansively about what the future will bring, analysts said that the Aug. 19 briefing was long on promises and short on explicit statements about how the two companies will integrate their product lines. What SAP presented was "some directional announcements but not any clear road maps. It's more about vision and strategy in terms of Sybase technologies and how SAP will integrate them," said Paul Hamerman, vice president and principal analyst with Forrester Research. "What they're saying is they have work to do to put this together."Mobile business applications and mobile data analysis technologies are worthy of research and investment, Hamerman said, because "there will be some potentially breakthrough improvements in terms of using the capabilities of the device as well as the ability to be touched with business processes any time or anywhere." As a result, Hamerman believes that "CIOs and business people will start to consider the potential of mobile applications going forward. But I also think that the market has to mature in terms of being able to deliver more standardized, off-the-shelf type of applications" because it isn't clear yet what SAP and other venders will eventually deliver. For Albert Pang, president of the software industry research firm Apps Run the World, the question is whether SAP and Sybase can move quickly enough to keep up with the rapid development move globally to mobile applications. In the near term, SAP's mobile application strategy will be felt most "among some of the verticals SAP is trying to address, like banking, retail and telcos," Pang said. "But the mobile market is just changing so quickly, will the customer be willing to wait" long enough for SAP and Sybase to get their full mobile application portfolio to the market? Pang asked. The move to mobile applications "is a mass migration that is going on right now. So I think that the SAP strategy is going to be more effective if it directs all of its energy toward these strategic verticals" as soon as possible, he said. While SAP will benefit from its Sybase acquisition simply from gaining the revenue stream from the Sybase relational database and mobile data access technology, it's uncertain whether the product road map the two companies presented on Aug. 19 will deliver the strategic market advantage they are looking for, said Pang. "I don't think that we are going to have a good idea about whether the marriage of these two companies will bring tangible benefits to a large number of SAP customers" until 2011 or perhaps even later.
At the same time, it's clear that "SAP sees a big future in mobile applications in terms of the user experiences that they offer as well as the freedom that they offer to move throughout the country to accelerate business processes," Hamerman said.