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SAP Leonardo: Masterpiece in the making or just a rough outline?

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SAP's attempt to corral IoT, AI and big data products into an expanded SAP Leonardo tent meets with skepticism, while questions over S/4HANA's roadmap and indirect licensing linger.

SAP Leonardo has moved to the forefront of SAP's attempt to ride an industry-wide wave of interest in such leading-edge technologies as blockchain, the internet of things, artificial intelligence and big data. But can SAP Leonardo really serve as an umbrella for a coherent architecture, or is it just a collection of buzzword-heavy products with no meaningful connections to each other?

News Editor Jim O'Donnell, ComputerWeekly Business Applications Editor Brian McKenna and I discuss the SAP Leonardo rebranding, the S/4HANA roadmap and other significant developments from SAP in a podcast recorded at the 2017 Sapphire Now conference.

"If you talked to 10 different people, you probably had 10 different opinions about what Leonardo really was, so they definitely have some work to do," O'Donnell says.

Hasso Plattner, SAP co-founder and chair of its supervisory board, might have had the best description, calling SAP Leonardo essentially a toolbox, "where people can go in and build applications that use tools like machine learning and augmented reality and IoT [internet of things], and all these sort of buzz things that have been talked about for a long time."

O'Donnell relates a discussion he had with Emplay, an SAP partner that makes software it calls GPS for sales. Emplay uses machine learning and big data analytics to coach people through the sales process.

"It was essentially what [SAP Leonardo] is, even though they didn't really [say] that they were building it in [SAP Leonardo]," O'Donnell says.

McKenna talks about a major story he has been following that centers on a U.K. court case won by SAP after it sued a customer for failing to pay licensing fees for SAP ERP software accessed indirectly through two Salesforce.com applications. SAP CEO Bill McDermott touched on the issue briefly near the beginning of his conference keynote, announcing new pricing schemes that brought a muted response, perhaps because of uncertainty over their meaning.

"SAP, understandably, is determined to protect its intellectual property," McKenna said. "The way Bill McDermott has been putting it is that they want to achieve a balance between protecting their IP and having an empathetic heart toward customers. And they've been evolving their pricing strategy to try to reflect the way modern IT is."

The discussion concludes with observations about how well SAP is explaining the roadmap for S/4HANA, the latest generation of its ERP technology, and the marked divergence between SAP's claims and the perceptions of analysts and SAP users.

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