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Sapphire SAP has kicked off its annual users' conference emphasising new technologies and expanded relationships spanning Web 2.0 and collaboration.

During a day of conference sessions and formal news announcements, the enterprise resource planning (ERP) giant outlined plans this year to add additional support for AJAX to its portal collaboration software.

SAP also promised a move towards "blended" Business Intelligence (BI) and search, improving integration between SAP and third-parties' BI tools, while saying search would integrate with business objects and be able to produce results with greater context - unlike search from the likes of Google.

SAP expanded its separate relationships with Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard to further advance Duet, the package developed in conjunction with Microsoft that integrates workflows between Microsoft Office and back-end SAP systems.

The companies announced an HP ProLiant-based appliance with Duet pre-installed. SAP called the appliance, due in June, a "proof of concept" that would let customers "more quickly and easily" evaluate Duet - SAP claims 250 of its 36,000 customers have adopted Duet since its May 2006 launch. Called Duet by SAP and Microsoft, the appliance can be expanded with additional ProLiant or Integrity servers.

Version 2.0 of the Duet software, due next year, will feature improved tools allowing customers to create their own scenarios - the name for those Office/SAP integrations. One goal is for tools that are simple to use and let developers build scenarios for ad-hoc generation and sharing of information.

Dennis Moore, general manager of emerging systems, told The Register: "We are working hard with Microsoft to get the technology to the point where it can be used with less development effort."

Doug Merritt, who recently assumed responsibility for a bevy of emerging technologies after Shai Agassi slipped the SAP leash, said SAP's move to Web 2.0 reflected the changes in the workplace in creating and storing data using structured formats, and for information workers engaging in fewer repetitive work-based tasks.

"The best way for SAP to tap that is through collaboration tools," SAP's executive vice president of business user development said. Merritt claimed SAP's integrated platform could span both structured and unstructured data.

Also on Monday's agenda were mid-sized end-users. IBM announced a reseller agreement serving SAP's All-in-One ERP and customer relationship management (CRM) suite for mid-sized companies, in 12 European countries. The deal follows a similar agreement between IBM and SAP in the US last year and will see IBM add hardware, software, and services to the relationship.

The small and mid-market are important growth opportunities for SAP, whose goal is for 100,000 customers by 2010. The company claims 10,000 customers currently run All-in-One. ®

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