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SAP offers free mobile SDK, partner program to push mobile development

SAP has two new programs aimed at spurring mobile application development on the Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP), including free licenses and an initiative that helps them make money off of their apps.

Hoping to expand its mobile ecosystem and build on its nascent developer outreach program, SAP said today it will offer free unlimited developer licenses for the Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP), and it's creating a new partnership program to help companies of any size bring mobile applications to market.

They've conquered the IP ownership issue, which is no small feat for SAP.

Jon Reed,
independent SAP analyst

SAP described the program as a "continuum" that helps developers move from one stage to the next. "They have the right programs to accommodate their progression," said David Brutman, senior director of developer relations at SAP.

SAP also said it has integrated the SUP with a number of platforms, including those by Appcelerator Titanium, Adobe and Sencha, furthering partnerships SAP originally announced back in April, and giving developers alternate ways of developing SAP mobile applications.

Jon Reed, an independent SAP analyst and head of, said the free licenses and the partner program were good news for developers and should grow SAP's mobile applications offerings.

"There's no doubt about that," Reed said. "There's a pretty coherent flow for people to get involved with mobile development."

SAP mobile ecosystem: Three tiers

The two new developer programs, both of which were briefly mentioned at the recent SAP SapphireNow conference in Orlando, Fla., build off of an existing 30-day trial program in which developers can experiment with the Sybase Unwired Platform at no cost.

The second tier is for those who are ready to take the next step and develop on the mobile platform. They can obtain a free developer license that enables them to create applications. There's no time limit on the licenses, and they are available to anyone, according to SAP.

"It was one piece that was limiting developers in the past," Brutman said. "We have a 30-day trial version that was intended for developers to experiment on the platform. With this offering, they can take it to the next level and build apps. It's all community supported, as it's offered for free."

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Brutman said the program is being offered in conjunction with Amazon Web Services (AWS). Developers can download the software development kit (SDK) to their local drives and then access the platform via the Amazon cloud. "The only fee is for Amazon for use of the hosting of the image," Brutman said.

The third tier is a new mobile apps partner program for developers interested in selling their apps via SAP's software store, according to Christian Baader, VP of strategy and channel development for SAP.

The program is only open to companies, Baader said, which means individual developers interested in moving into the partner program must first establish themselves as a company. Although, there are no requirements as to what size they must be to participate, he said.

In exchange for 15% of the sales proceeds, SAP helps approved companies with a range of services from technical expertise to coaching and go-to market expertise, Baader said. There is also an annual minimum fee of roughly $2,500 that developers must pay to participate.

"You get a bundle of the benefits you need for end-to-end support from SAP in order to make your engagement really a business," he said. "[The program addresses] one of the more critical components they face, which is how do they make their apps into a business."

Developers to retain the intellectual property

Despite being built using free licenses, SAP said developers and partners will retain the intellectual property rights to anything they create. The same goes for those applications sold through the SAP store.

That's a significant change in SAP's policy, according to Reed, and one that's been an obstacle in the past to greater development on the SUP.

"They've conquered the IP ownership issue, which is no small feat for SAP. This IP ownership issue has held them up for years," Reed said. "It's basically a corporate risk issue. If you give up ownership of the IP, then you're opening yourself up to more liability, more lawsuits. Keeping the IP is always the safer legal path."

Despite the positives, it's unclear how much muscle SAP is going to put into marketing the apps sold through the SAP store, which only has about 100 apps, and isn't particularly well known yet among SAP customers, according to Reed.

"A lot of these developers don't really have the muscle to promote their products, so they're going to need to feel confident that SAP is going to push this aggressively," Reed said.

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