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Sapphire 2007: SAP, Microsoft make nice with Duet

SAP and Microsoft announced a Duet roadmap taking the product through the next few years.

ATLANTA -- Now that the first round of Duet customers have provided feedback, SAP and Microsoft yesterday announced new features and a long-range roadmap for the software that allows users to tap into SAP applications through their familiar Microsoft Office applications.

Version 2.0 of Duet will be delivered in late 2008 and will integrate Microsoft SharePoint Server as a Duet extension. It will also include sales and supply chain management improvements and broaden Duet to compliance and resource management. Later this year, Duet version 1.5 will feature new scenarios and templates for recruiting and purchasing management, legal contract authoring and additional languages, including simplified Chinese.

That level of co-operation from two of the world's largest software companies was a good sign to many IT professionals who have invested in both.

"I would rather build my business around a small number of software relationships, knowing the companies and products will be able to work well together," said Delvin Fletcher, CIO of Herndon, Va.-based SecurIT, a Duet customer and Sapphire 2007 attendee.

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"Everything Microsoft and SAP decide to do together is something we don't have to do ourselves," Fletcher said. "[His company has] a small but critical Duet implementation. The roadmap acknowledges that -- even with the companies' competitive overlap -- Duet will be around for a while."

The Duet news topped the list of "co-innovation" announcements made at Sapphire 2007, which opened Monday at the Georgia World Congress Center. The annual event is co-located with Americas' SAP Users' Group (ASUG) and drew a crowd estimated at 15,000.

New and expanded partnerships with companies such as IBM and Cisco and a range of smaller vendors were all part of SAP's effort to remind users that its core R/3 system and its NetWeaver platform can and will complement hardware and software from other vendors -- even competitors.

SAP also announced a new Duet appliance co-developed with Microsoft and HP. Dubbed "Duet by SAP and Microsoft, powered by HP," it is an HP ProLiant server with Duet software pre-installed.

"We are extremely interested in Duet," said Jim Walsh, vice president of information technology for Tumi Inc., a New York-based travel accessory maker. Walsh attended SAP CEO Henning Kagermann's keynote, which offered a Duet demonstration. "It's something end users can touch and feel -- and makes it easier to get them started right away in an SAP system."

Still, some Sapphire attendees were noncommittal on how and how quickly they would make use of Duet.

Carmen Yancey, information manager at Pioneer Information Management, a subsidiary of Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont, likes some Duet features, such as dragging SAP information into a Microsoft workspace. However, she is waiting to hear more details about Duet's status, pricing and future before investing.

In his afternoon keynote, SAP's deputy CEO Léo Apotheker was joined by Jeff Raikes, president of the Business Division at Microsoft.

"The incredible level of interest in Duet by our customers motivated us to share specifics around the future of the product," Raikes said. For some attendees, just knowing Duet is a priority for SAP will help them commit to the product.

"Knowing the roadmap is huge," said Dan Lubin, director of information technology for Danvers, Mass.-based Abiomed. "We work with the traditional SAP interface and the portal interface, so knowing that more Duet functionality will be available and when is key to using the products."

By version 3.0, Duet will be built on the latest generation of Microsoft Office and SAP Business Suite, with SharePoint further integrated. Duet will also be expanded to include more structured and unstructured data collaboration.

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