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Sapphire 2001: SAP talks inclusion

SAP is embracing a different tone at Sapphire, discussing the importance of cooperation and collaboration. The software giant isn't only talking the talk, it's also walking the walk - inviting a former competitor to address attendees.

ORLANDO - The players may be the same, but the tone is definitely different.

The first full day of Sapphire 2001 here zeroed in on cooperation and conveyed a real sense that SAP wants to improve its global perception through more open business strategies. "Cooperation and collaboration: the more we do, the better we get," SAP AG's co-chairman and CEO Hasso Plattner told the media at an afternoon news conference.

Plattner openly discussed how SAP lost the perception war with competitor Oracle in the late 1990s. "SAP is now focused on creating an open portal that supports not only SAP products, but those of our enemies," he said. "We have learned that never will the world be standardized on one set of systems."

Plattner explained that the IT world will always be heterogeneous and suggested that vendors focus on customer requirements rather than on hindering the success of each other's products.

You want further proof that SAP is now embracing an inclusive strategy?

The software giant went so far as to invite its key competitor to Sapphire. Ray Lane, who stepped down as Oracle's president and chief operating officer last July, gave his opinion of SAP live via Webcam during the morning keynote. Lane, now a partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, even took a softer tact himself, giving SAP products good marks.

However, Lane did mention that the only real issue he sees at SAP is the management disagreements between SAP's German headquarters and its U.S. subsidiary. "There's been a lot of turnover in North America because of internal strife," Lane said.

While a few attendees said that they thought the openness expressed in the keynote was mere marketing hype, many were impressed by the tone set during the first day.

"Hasso validated that he is seeking to take a leadership position for thoroughness and completeness in the industry," said David A. Monroe, V.P. Operations, Research & Analysis for Plant-Wide Research. "I am encouraged just by that. I don't care what else I see here at Sapphire."

Monroe, who has attended many Sapphire events, also said, "The US market is beginning to become the tail that wags the dog. SAP has to adapt, and if there is anything I recognize about Hasso, it's that he will."


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