SAP gave attendees at its TechEd conference here a closer look at the preliminary results of its graphical interface upgrade. While users said the interface was primed for a much needed update, some expressed confusion over the future of SAP Portal and the viability of supporting multiple interfaces for end-users.
"They're offering almost too much choice without any guidance," said Don Allen, a manager at IT consultancy, Accenture. "There's no real hard and firm rules, so portal usage as a client might be diminished."
But Shai Agassi, president of SAP's product and technology group, said SAP didn't want to force end-users into a standard interface for tapping business data. Instead, using SAP Portal as the underlying technology, multiple graphical interfaces – SAP Enterprise Portal, Muse, Duet, widgets and voice – would be supported, Agassi said.
"We don't force users into the world of SAP. We take SAP into what users are doing," he said. "We're giving our customers the option to tie the core portal engine in NetWeaver to whatever user experience their users want to be delighted with."
Muse gives the interface client the look of a slick Web site with a shell area that gives end users access to specific data and a canvas, which can be changed for a specific job function. The style is similar to SAP's Business One interface with the ease of use of the SAP-Microsoft joint Duet product, which connects SAP processes with familiar Microsoft Office products.
Questions remain about the new interface. SAP executives haven't said whether it is easy to deploy. SAP is also still determining whether to release Muse as an update or sell it as a separate product.
Muse will be released in phases with specific SAP modules for customers running Microsoft Windows. Support for Apple OS and Linux will be added later, said Filip Misovski, an SAP product strategist. SAP is also seeking customers to beta test the interface, he said.
"It's all the same underlying portal infrastructure that the different clients take advantage of," Misovski said.
SAP will still support, but will begin gradually phasing out use of former SAP UI technologies like the SAPGUI, BSP, and HTMLB Misovski said. The Muse client in addition can run HTML/AJAX and FLEX/Flash based apps.
The minimum basic requirement to use Muse is mySAP ERP 2004s. The new Muse interface standardizes on Web Dynpro and uses the tooling environment of Visual Composer, Eclipse for Web Dynpro and ABAP Workbench for Web Dynpro.
For Marc Manuel, an ABAP programmer with Shell Oil Co., Muse gives end-users a slick new look, but he said like many other SAP firms, Shell has standardized on its own custom portal application.
"We use a portal and we're happy with it," Manuel said. "But Muse adds value by giving end-users more control over company data."