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SAP to show some A1S at last

Board promises 'live demo' action

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After much talk, and with expectations growing, SAP has pledged a long awaited, "comprehensive update" on its planned A1S on-demand applications suite.

Senior members of SAP's board will provide a "live demonstration" of A1S and trot out early customers at a stage-managed event in New York on September 19. SAP told The Register we should expect "content on features and go-to-market etc."

Asked bluntly whether we can expect a final list of A1S features, a release schedule or pricing, SAP ducked. One thing we can expect: a name for A1S, if comments this summer from deputy chief executive Leo Apotheker are to be believed.

There's a sense SAP is reluctant to commit publicly to what we can expect next month, and the event will be geared towards generating coverage that builds the perception SAP really is doing something about on-demand.

Both the date and the location are significant. September 19 is the last day of Dreamforce, the developer conference hosted by SAP's customer relationship management (CRM) rival Salesforce.com. Dreamforce, on the other side of the country in San Francisco, will dominate the airwaves, and excite the press, the Web 2.0 "mashup" crowd, and analysts who'll ask what SAP's got planned to tackle Benioff's beast.

Salesforce.com has grown quickly in its seven short years to near parity with SAP in numbers of customers. It did this by satisfying demand for affordable, simple-to-use and easy-to-install CRM. Salesforce.com is now trying to grow outside CRM into other business applications, a potential worry to SAP among others.

As for location, New York has become the venue of choice for tech companies that want to reassure shareholders, analysts and big-ticket, blue chip customers that both the business and the product roadmap are safe and sound. SAP is following in the footsteps of Sun Microsystems and Oracle in recent years.

SAP certainly needs the hit. Analysts have long accepted that on-demand is a profitable business model - thanks to the efforts of Salesforce.com, not SAP. The Oracle noise machine has been waging a war to undermine analysts' confidence in SAP over its growth and market share. Analysts, meanwhile, believe there's a looming scrap between SAP, Salesforce.com and Microsoft in early 2008, as the latter enters the market with its own, hosted CRM - Dynamics Live CRM - and as A1S is due to launch.

So far, though, despite months of talking the talk, SAP has failed to deliver even a hint that A1S is anything more than slideware. A much-anticipated session on A1S at SAP's massive SAPPHIRE event in Atlanta this summer turned into little more than a screen-shot show-and-tell and executive discussion.

While there is no doubt SAP is working on something with A1S, the clock is ticking. Availability is expected in the first-quarter of 2008. However, SAP has left it incredibly late in the day to launch the service, unless - of course - it's already nailed down all requirements and features, and completed all development and testing. Nothing yet suggests that it has.

Unless SAP provides a final features list, launch date or pricing next month, then it will have delivered nothing new or tangible to suggest A1S is any closer to a launch or it's a finished product customers and developers can pick up.®

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