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SAP shoots for billion users by 2014

SAP used its user group meeting in Bahrain as an opportunity to discuss further avenues in software development, as well as a stronger push towards cloud computing.

SAP's User Group was held in Bahrain for a second year, although it may move to Dubai in 2011.
SAP's User Group was held in Bahrain for a second year, although it may move to Dubai in 2011.

At its annual user conference in Bahrain today, German enterprise software vendor SAP outlined its future strategy for product development. The firm confirmed that development of its ByDesign software-as-a-service product is still ongoing, and revealed that it is also working on integrating elements of social networking into future applications.

Herve Couturier, executive vice president for technology development at SAP, says the firm will not deviate from its core strength in the transaction market, but will instead look to improve its offerings and make them more accessible.

"We plan to reach the billion user mark by 2014, which is a significant change in the current direction compared to the past. SAP is traditionally very strong in the ERP transaction market. We will continue to support that market by renovating our business suite, providing better user interface, by embedding new technology inside the suite, by embedding analytics inside the suite. We will also provide possibilities to provide new upgrades without disruption," he says.

Couturier believes that on-demand applications such as SAP's nascent ByDesign which can deliver specific modules individually are an attractive option, particularly in the SMB and SME sector. 

"Adding on demand component, a carbon footprint application, whatever niche application you may want to use - add it on top of the suite. We believe that this new offer will be delivered mostly on-demand. You may have situations where the entire business needs to run on-demand. The offering will a ByDesign product. In that second area, you will see a lot of offers coming from partners to bring the value of on-demand, as well as from SAP directly, providing an end-to-end solution," he says.

To reach the ambitious target of one billion users, Couturier suggests that the company may need to take a leaf from one of its most famous clients - Apple.

"iTunes runs on SAP. The App Store has hundreds of thousands of applications in about two years and 2 billion downloads. These are huge numbers of people reaching out and getting in touch with the application. This is what we want to do by providing mobile devices with access and consumption of SAP applications. So you will see a drive in those areas towards new full applications beyond the transaction level," he confirms.

He ended his keynote by also admitting that the explosive growth of social media is providing new possibilities in software development: "When you think about Facebook, Twitter, all those highly growing networks, the question is, how can we serve that audience? We have in our labs right now product prototypes that are using the same kind of technology, capitalizing on those networks to ensure this viral adoption and consumption."

The SAP User Group Conference for the Middle East and North Africa (SUG-MENA) was held in Bahrain for the second year in succession, although senior sources suggest that it may return to its earlier home in Dubai next year - in part to the lower costs of hosting such an event in the UAE. This year's meeting was attended by 75 companies, with over 350 senior IT staff in attendance.