Now that SAP's roughly $6 billion acquisition of Sybase has gained clearance from European regulators, it may not be long before the deal is finalized. With that in mind, users and partners of the companies have much to consider during the next few months, analysts say.
SAP will gain a comprehensive set of technologies for mobile applications through the Sybase purchase and has announced big plans for them. In fact, "mobility is the new desktop," according to Co-CEO Bill McDermott.
But there are already questions about its mobile strategy that require answers, observers say.
For one, SAP needs to define the differences between its own Project Gateway and Sybase's mobile platform, said Jon Reed, an independent analyst who closely tracks SAP.
The pending introduction of Sybase's technology, coupled with only limited public information released about Gateway so far, "muddies the mix" for customers interested in building out a mobility strategy, Reed said.
Gateway appears to be aimed at supporting lighter-weight mobile applications, judging from remarks SAP CTO Vishal Sikka made during a Sapphire keynote. In less than two months, internal developers at SAP created more than 600 applications with the platform, he said.
Sybase's platform could end up being positioned for heavier-duty uses, Reed said. Some clarity could come at the vendor's upcoming Tech Ed conferences in October, he added.
Meanwhile, the competitive stakes will be raised for other enterprise mobility vendors, many of which already work with SAP.
Just about all of them are scrambling to make sure their applications are supported on Sybase said mobile analyst and consultant Kevin Benedict, founder of Netcentric Strategies.
Users can also expect these vendors to develop fleets of specialized applications targeting verticals within the SAP universe, in order to compete with ones SAP and Sybase are sure to develop, Benedict added.
While many companies have some type of mobile applications already deployed, if only email, "100 percent of the industry" is still trying to define a broad-based strategy, according to Benedict. Therefore, it would be useful for SAP to lay out its plans for the next couple of years, he said.
Forrester Research analyst Paul Hamerman echoed Benedict.
"Customers don't need to have these [applications] available overnight," he said. "But in the next couple years, many kinds of business processes will start to migrate to untethered devices. SAP sees that and wants to position themselves to be able to ride that wave."
Apart from mobility, it would also be helpful to customers if SAP indicated how quickly other Sybase technologies, such as its database, will be integrated with SAP's software portfolio, Hamerman said. This is of lesser urgency, since SAP already supports a number of databases, he added.
However, SAP will also be gaining in-memory database technology via Sybase, noted Altimeter Group analyst Ray Wang. The market will be looking for details of how SAP's own in-memory database, which received great fanfare at Sapphire, will work with Sybase's product, he said.
Meanwhile, some typical problems involved with mergers don't seem to be as severe in this case, analysts said.