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SAP and Microsoft play Duet in Office love-in

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Sapphire SAP and Microsoft executives have embraced warmly and expressed respect for each other's applications while neatly side-stepping looming competition.

Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft's business division heading up Microsoft's Office Server System, joined SAP deputy CEO Leo Apotheker on stage at SAP's annual customer and partner conference Tuesday to detail the company's Duet roadmap. Earlier during the day Microsoft and SAP committed to two successive versions of Duet going beyond 2008, that will draw heavily on virtual working and collaboration capabilities from Microsoft's popular SharePoint Server. Their commitment comes barely a year after Duet first launched.

However, not only does Microsoft provide its own Dynamics of ERP and CRM suite, which it throws over the enterprise wall into SAP's backyard while Dynamics plays nicely in the SMB market that SAP claims provides 65 per cent of its business, but Microsoft has also devised a Duet-like set of integrations between Office and Dynamics called Snap that launched in 2006.

Asked about the potential clash on Tuesday, Raikes conceded Microsoft is cooking up more but was unwilling to discuss further.

"The Dynamics group is also looking at how the Officer user experience can enhance access to Dynamics," he said clinically. However: "The most important point today, is the leadership the companies [SAP and Microsoft] are taking to together to open up the value to SAP customers."

Microsoft's Dynamics business unit was folded into Raikes' business division last year, with a view to driving close ties between the two. Microsoft claims 500 million PCs running Office, presenting a sizeable opportunity to expose information held in ERP or CRM from both Microsoft and SAP to a large pool of users through a front end that's familiar and they are comfortable using.

Asked about getting squeezed by Microsoft, Apotheker responded: "We will meet them in the market and ace a fair, honest competition, and that will have not any impact on Duet."

Back on the Duet roadmap, Raikes said version 2.0, due next year, would see an expended number of scenarios - integrations between Office and SAP. These will include sales management support for leads and opportunity management, supply chain product management, and broader capabilities in global risk and competition, and global risk and resource management.

Duet 3.0, expected once SAP has updated is business suite, will stretch into structured and unstructured work through the addition of wikis, blogs and collaborative, virtual workgroups through the full inclusion of Microsoft's SharePoint Server, and will also let customers build their own integration scenarios through Microsoft Office tools - likely to mean Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO). "We are working on the list of exciting scenarios," Raikes said.®

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