23rd > December > 2002 Archive

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Countdown to SAP R/3 upgrade deadline

The clock is ticking for users of SAP R/3 versions 3.1i, 4.0b, 4.5b and 4.6b because the enterprise business applications company plans to discontinue support for these editions this time next year, leaving affected customers with a 12-month window in which to start their upgrade. The move will tidy up SAP's product support portfolio, as it will reduce the six R/3 versions it currently supports down to just two - version 4.6c and R/3 Enterprise. Maintenance support was originally due to be phased out in August 2003, but earlier this year the Walldorf, Germany-based company extended the in-maintenance period by four months. Arne Schmidthals, VP of product management, said the company has a track record of long-term maintenance and the versions have been in maintenance mode for four to six years but changes in market demand and its intention of providing customers with greater flexibility in terms of application functionality, coupled with natural upgrade cycles, have driven the decision. It also says many customer prefer the cut-off date to occur at year-end. SAP executives were unable to be specific regarding how many customers will be affected but say that it is less than half of the nearly 19,000-strong installed base. However, research earlier this year carried out by investment banker JP Morgan indicated that only 20% of existing SAP customers had switched to mySAP, while the R/3 Enterprise solution - which is now centered around 4.6c - was only launched in the third quarter 2002, a combination of factors that raises a question over how many customers are still running pre-4.6c versions. Although discontinuing support is part of the natural course of development in a product's lifecycle - both Oracle Corp and PeopleSoft announced similar plans during the year - it is also a useful tool in terms of helping drive additional sales and boost take-up of newer applications. The move was expected because when it announced R/3 Enterprise, SAP said it had frozen base ERP platform functionality and planned to provide functionality upgrades via plug-ins instead, in the belief that existing customers would find this approach less expensive and protracted. Looking to the future, all SAP's efforts are going into R/3 Enterprise and the mySAP components that run on top of it. Version 4.6c forms the core of R/3 Enterprise with mySAP-style applications offered as optional extensions. There is no end date set for R/3 Enterprise, and it will be supported until at least 2007. The aim, according to Schmidthals, is to keep the core application platform as stable as possible so users have a solid platform on which to add SAP or in-house developed functionality without compromising overall system stability. As version upgrades can easily take 12 months, customers will soon have to make a decision about their future plans. However, SAP said it will not abandon users of the older systems and is offering an extended maintenance program for an extra 2% on the annual maintenance fee, whereby it will continue to offer limited support including technical support and legally required updates such as those relating to tax regulations. As the Walldorf, Germany-based company is concentrating on selling to its installed base and reducing operating costs in response to the ongoing economic situation, a strategy that encourages customers to upgrade will help it to fulfill its goals. Budget-conscious customers maneuvered into upgrading with all its associated costs may be less impressed, but SAP is hoping that the value proposition based on the promise of a stable, non-changing core platform, will overcome cost and business issue-related concerns. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 23 Dec 2002

Sybase acquires AvantGo for $38m

Sybase Inc has acquired leading mobile applications specialist AvantGo Inc for $38m in cash. Brian Vink, VP marketing for Dublin, California-based iAnywhere Solutions Inc, the Sybase subsidiary that will absorb Hayward, California-based AvantGo's portfolio, said the acquisition would strengthen the company's leadership position in the emerging mobile middleware market. Specifically, the deal brings together AvantGo's pioneering mobile web technology with iAnywhere's market leading data synchronization and mobile database technology. The combination of iAnywhere's offline/disconnected access to mobile data with AvantGo's real-time/connected expertise - although it does offer its own offline-oriented products - looks like a strong combination going forward, providing a wide range of options to businesses wanting to mobilize enterprise applications. The $38m price iAnywhere is paying for AvantGo strongly reflects the problems the fledgling mobile middleware and applications space has found itself in over the last 12 months. Most enterprises have delayed spending on mobile and wireless initiatives, despite the rapid productivity gains the technology has often produced for more adventurous businesses. AvantGo's revenues reflect this apathy, and it has been laboring around the $5m mark for its last few quarters. Vink believes the deal will help to drive momentum towards mobilizing the enterprise. "[AvantGo] already works with web developers and that really opens up who can develop mobile applications [using iAnywhere products]," said Vink. "Different business processes need different latencies. Pricing information [for instance] may change weekly while inventory might change hourly." This enthusiasm for AvantGo's mobile internet skills also extends to the considerable subscriber base it has grown for its pioneering mobile internet service, which has been available to PDA users for several years now. "AvantGo brings seven million registered subscribers with My AvantGo moving two terabytes of data a day," said Vink. AvantGo's executive officers, board members and certain affiliates holding around 25% of the company's outstanding shares have already pledged support for the takeover, which is expected to be completed during the first quarter of 2003. © ComputerWire Related story Why The Register doesn't have an AvantGo channel (scroll down a bit)
ComputerWire, 23 Dec 2002

BT titsup exchanges sorted

BT has sorted out the problem that caused around ten recently ADSL-enabled exchanges to go titsup. It seems a new class of line card was to blame for the outage which hit hundreds of users who had campaigned to get their exchanges converted to ADSL. BT declined to say which manufacturer is to blame for the fault. The problem was fixed on Saturday and BT reports that users have now been able to connect with no problems. However, BT is still keeping a close eye on the matter, you know, just in case. On Friday, BT was still unclear what the problem was and claimed that the outages were down to a "range of faults". ® Related Story Campaigners report titsup ADSL exchanges
Tim Richardson, 23 Dec 2002

Mobile games will boom as MMS languishes

Downloadable games will be a major money-spinner for mobile operators in 2003, but picture messaging will not be as popular as anticipated. These are two of the ten predictions for the global wireless sector in 2003 by research agency Strategy Analytics. Others include SMS and e-mail usage in businesses to continue its rapid growth, MMS to be increasingly exploited by enterprises, and shipments of wireless PDAs to increase by 160 per cent during the forthcoming year. In addition, it said that 2003 will be "another non-event" for W-CDMA 3G outside of Japan as subscribers numbers fail to break the five million barrier. According to Strategy, downloadable games will be the fastest growing consumer application during 2003 and will generate $2bn by the end of the year. However, it predicted that several factors will hamper the growth of picture messaging during 2003. These include free trials, slower than anticipated cross network interoperability, and the fact that only 7 percent of phones sold during the year will contain an integrated camera. Within businesses, instant messaging will experience "dramatic growth," and SMS and e-mail use will generate nearly $6bn in revenues globally in 2003. The research company also said that businesses worldwide will spend over $1bn on photo and video messaging as their employees seek to leverage MMS to tap into centralised expertise for assistance. In terms of wireless companies, it forecast that Samsung's anticipated 20 per cent profit margins will fuel a challenge to Motorola's number two market share position, and LG will overtake the Sony-Ericsson partnership, which Strategy envisaged will most likely split in 2003, in the top five of global handset vendors. Meanwhile, Verizon Communications will fall from the top ten of global operators after it sells its largest international asset, Italy's Omnitel, and debt loads will force T-Mobile's new management to divest non-core assets with T-Mobile US top of its list. In a separate report, Strategy Analytics advised mobile operators to develop partnerships with both branded and micro-content in order to deliver a variety of material that will given them the edge over highly popular Internet portals. It also recommended that operators adopt a per-message based MMS pricing scheme, which, it said, would be simple for consumers to understand, stimulate end-user experimentation, and ultimately drive higher MMS usage. Strategy warned that despite the positive outlook for MMS in the long-term, the slow diffusion of entry-level MMS handsets into the large "data hungry" pre-paid mobile user base, and limited inter-operator MMS agreements, will stifle growth over the next few years. It estimated that less than 15 per cent of handsets shipped in 2003 will be MMS-enabled. © ENN
ElectricNews.net, 23 Dec 2002

Oftel slaps BT over wholesale business broadband charges

Oftel has confirmed that it is forcing BT to slash pricing for its wholesale business broadband services. The monster telco has always maintained that its pricing for leased lines was fair. Other operators - and crucially now Oftel - disagreed. Oftel is forcing BT to cut the cost of connection for its partial private circuits (PPCs) by 50 per cent. Rental is also to be cut by 20 per cent. In a statement Oftel said it believed these charges "better reflect the costs BT incur in providing these services". PPCs are the key wholesale components of leased lines which telecoms operators buy from BT so they can offer their own services directly to end users. Leased lines are permanently connected communications links between two or more sites and are used predominantly by businesses. The amended charges will be backdated to 1 August 2001 when PPCs were first introduced by BT, said Oftel. Today's ruling follows a preliminary report published in September. BT was unmoved by today's announcement claiming that the price reduction had already been factored in. By late morning shares in BT were down 0.5p at 197.25p. ® Related Story Oftel plans BT leased-line wholesale cuts
Tim Richardson, 23 Dec 2002

US preps Big Brother Net monitoring

The US government is assembling a plan to get ISPs involved in building the most comprehensive Net surveillance system yet created. The idea is put forward in the final version of a report called The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace due to be released early next year, according to the New York Times (free reg req'd). The report, prepared by the Critical Infrastructure Protection Board, establishes a blueprint for the new Department of Homeland Security and provides for government and private sector cooperation in defending the Net against all forms of attack. Alarm bells among privacy activists have been triggered by talk of a centralised system for monitoring the Internet in defence against the supposed threats of cyber terrorism as well as more mundane risks, such as computer viruses. The government wants a lead role in running these operations and a capability for real time surveillance of Net traffic. Details about how the system would work - or how much it would cost - remain vague but the scope of the scheme seems far more wide-ranging the Carnivore, the controversial FBI-run keyword monitoring system. What is planned looks more like the measures introduced by the UK Government Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, only applied to the whole Internet (or at least all the portions under US control). Tiffany Olson, the deputy chief of staff for the President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board, said that proposals were still in development. Firmly pencilled in, however, are plans for a centralised, large-scale, government controlled operations centre to provide early warning on cyber attacks. This is needed because ISPs only have a partial view of the Internet, Olson argued. "We don't have anybody that is able to look at the entire picture," she told the NY Times. "When something is happening, we don't know it's happening until it's too late." The NY Times cites concerns that the proposals blur the line between broad monitoring of the entire population and targeted wiretaps. The Bush Administration is keen to play down Big Brother fears but its suggestion that methods will not involve "monitoring at an individual user level" is unconvincing. ®
John Leyden, 23 Dec 2002