SAP gives NetWeaver portal an iGoogle-style upgrade

The add-on, called Enterprise Workspaces, echoes the vendor's increasing focus on better UIs and collaboration

SAP is sprucing up its NetWeaver portal with an upcoming add-on, Enterprise Workspaces, which will provide an iGoogle-like way for users to work with content.

The software is now in a "ramp-up" release mode and set for general availability toward the end of this year, according to a presentation on SAP's website.

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Users can create personal workspaces and share them with others as desired. Content is added to workspaces by pulling in widget-like "modules," such as for "employee search" or "display stock overview," from a library. The modules can then be dragged around the page to users' liking.

Modules can consist of existing portal content, but the product will ship with a core set developed by SAP. Customers can also develop their own, and SAP plans to encourage its partners to create modules.

SAP is emphasizing the potential cost savings Workspaces will provide. Users won't need any special training to use the workspaces, and time can be saved that would otherwise be spent by IT staff to handle users' requests related to content, the presentation states.

The workspaces' UI is being developed with Adobe's Flex platform. Customers may tailor it to match a desired look and feel.

Workspaces can be deployed beginning with NetWeaver Portal version 7.0, EhP1, SP5, according to the presentation.

The new software will be joined by an update to the NetWeaver portal itself, version 7.3, which is now in beta.

Overall, the Workspaces product underscores SAP's attempts to shed a reputation for clunky user interfaces and embrace collaborative themes in its software.

Another new product, the "virtual war room" tool Streamwork, sees users share documents and use widgets called "methods" to solve problems.

And while Workspaces is aligned with Adobe's technologies, SAP is keeping its UI options open, using Microsoft's Silverlight platform on the front end of its Business ByDesign suite of on-demand business applications.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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