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SAP has signaled a retreat from full, on-demand versions of its enterprise resource planning (ERP) products, just as Google and Microsoft up their game in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) market.

The firm’s co chief exec Henning Kagermann said at a press conference in Florida yesterday that there was "no reason" to dish up complete versions of its Business One or All-in-One ERP products.

He also said SAP would not rule out some application management tools from those products being offered as services, but it was unlikely it would cough up complete application sets.

He said SAP has now scaled back its ambitions somewhat by initially selling the on-demand app set in the US, France, UK, Germany, India, and China, before punting it across the globe. Presumably, availability worldwide will only happen if the product succeeds in the mature and emerging markets it has pinpointed.

Kagermann's comments follow the company's decision late last month to delay the rollout of Business ByDesign – an online SaaS product aimed at small and medium businesses - because SAP predicted it would take 18 months longer than originally expected to reel in €1bn revenues and 10,000 customers.

Whether such a cautious strategy pays off, however, remains to be seen. But the timing could be significant following Google's recent, cosy tie-up with Salesforce.com and Microsoft's attempts to dance its way into the arms of SaaS fanciers by offering its cloudy "software plus service".

In September last year, Kagermann called Business ByDesign "the most important announcement" of his career and "not just a new product... it's much more. It's a new era for us".

"We will set a new standard in business software for mid-size companies and we plan to change the on-demand market place," he said at the time. ®

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