MS, SAP extend Duet partnership

Companies chart course for future releases of integration software

SAP AG and Microsoft Corp. have underscored their commitment to their Duet partnership, jointly developed software that integrates Microsoft's desktop Office suite with SAP's back-end mySAP enterprise applications.

The two companies laid out a road map for future versions of the integration software Tuesday at SAP's Sapphire user conference in Atlanta. Previously known as Project Mendocino, Duet 1.0 shipped in June 2006 and to date more than 250 customers are using the software, according to SAP.

"Microsoft and SAP have decided to embark on a much richer, stronger partnership around Duet," said Leo Apotheker, SAP's deputy CEO and president of the vendor's customer solutions and operations.

The Duet partnership had appeared somewhat strained last month when Microsoft unveiled plans to come out with Dynamics Client for Office and SharePoint, a new product to more tightly integrate its own rival Dynamics business applications with Office and its SharePoint Web portal. Microsoft, which has tended to focus more on small to midsize users, also promised to compete more aggressively in the enterprise applications space against both market leader SAP and number-two player Oracle Corp.

Microsoft executives positioned the Dynamics Client, due out in May, as "a superset" to what Microsoft and SAP currently offer with Duet. For instance, unlike Duet 1.0, the Dynamics Client will provide Microsoft's customers and partners with access rights to information and processes managed by Dynamics so they can customize and build their own Office business applications.

Both products are all about giving more users within a company access to the information held in their organizations' back-end ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications without having to train them on the complex software or require them to have their own full-blown copy of the applications. Instead, users can access the ERP data through the Office desktop applications they're already familiar with.

During Tuesday's press conference, SAP and Microsoft executives were keen to stress their ongoing commitment to Duet and limit their likely competitive clashes. The two vendors remain "good friends," according to SAP CEO Henning Kagermann. "Every so often we'll meet in the market and will act as fair competitors," Apotheker added.

Later this year, the companies will release Duet 1.5, followed by Duet 2.0 toward the end of 2008, according to Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft's business division.

In the future, users will be able to access SAP's CRM (customer relationship management) data from Office as well as information held in mySAP applications. Customization capabilities are also planned so that users and partners can tailor existing scenarios to their own needs and come up with new ones. "Scenarios" is the term Microsoft and SAP use to describe additional integration capabilities focused on particular business areas such as time management and budget monitoring.

Duet 2.0 will feature additional scenarios and improved versions of existing scenarios, Raikes said. Duet 2.0 will also have some integration with SharePoint, with the Microsoft Web portal acting as an extension to Duet scenarios. By the time Duet 3.0 appears, which could be in 2009, following the debut of the next major release of Office, code-named Office 14, SharePoint will become "a foundation element and a prerequisite" for Duet, Raikes said.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.