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SAP and Sybase come through on mobile CRM for iPhone, Windows Mobile

SAP and Sybase have released SAP CRM to the iPhone and Windows Mobile devices. This brings to an end SAP's collaboration with RIM for the BlackBerry.

SAP and Sybase today are making available the fruits of a partnership announced last year.

Sybase Mobile Sales for SAP CRM and Sybase Mobile Workflow for SAP Business Suite are what the two companies pledged to provide when SAP and Sybase teamed up. The new release allows salespeople to access SAP CRM via iPhone and Windows Mobile devices and any mobile worker to access select SAP business processes through familiar email inboxes.

The move marks a departure from SAP's earlier strategy of providing mobile CRM capabilities by partnering directly with smartphone device makers. Two years ago, at its annual Sapphire conference, SAP trumpeted its partnership with Research in Motion (RIM) to develop a CRM application that would run natively on the BlackBerry device.

One problem with the RIM partnership, according to Vinay Iyer, head of CRM marketing for SAP, was that SAP's customer base is typically large enterprises that need to support multiple devices, beyond just the BlackBerry.

"RIM is not in the enterprise software business," Iyer said. "When you talk about global companies, they tend to have a diverse portfolio of mobile devices. A lot of customers were excited when they heard about RIM but said, 'Hey, what happens to the IT landscape when we have to support multiple devices.'"

As a result, Sybase has taken over development of SAP CRM on the BlackBerry and plans to release that later this year.

Indeed, the rapid rise in popularity of the iPhone has helped to create the multi-device landscape many IT organizations are now dealing with. It's no longer just the BlackBerry.

"The whole idea is to take this trend, starting with iPhone, of personal devices for the enterprise," said Senthil Krishnapillai, director of product management with Sybase. "It's a good TCO on hardware costs. We see a trend backed by at least three or four analyst firms that at least 60% of iPhones end up in enterprises, and enterprises are inclined to support it."

The CRM sales application supports key processes for mobile sales workers, including accounts and contacts, and can push analytics capabilities back to the CRM system. It also has an offline mode, Krishnapillai said, and users can enter data on a plane, for example.

"The app is fully compliant with the personal use model," he said. "IT can roll this out on a personal device. There are some enterprise sandbox capabilities to isolate corporate data from the rest of the devices."

The sandbox and security are key issues for corporate IT, particularly given data breaches in recent years and new compliance laws such as Massachusetts 201 CMR 17.00, which establishes legal standards for the protection of personal data of state residents, according to Chris Hazelton, research director for mobile and wireless with the New York City-based 451 Group.

"You need to have a secure way [to] protect customer data," he said. "There are ways of mobilizing customer data. What happens if you access customer data from a mobile browser? That might be encrypted through SSL."

By partnering with Sybase, SAP is taking a different approach to mobile CRM than some of its competitors in the market, who are using their own technology.

"Oracle has its own development platform -- Oracle Application Development Framework [ADF] Mobile Client, which will compete with Sybase’s Unwired Platform, as ADF Mobile Client will be used by developers to push Oracle data [including CRM data] to mobile devices," Hazelton said. "A Web-based version, ADF Mobile Browser allows this data to reach smartphones without the need for a native application. Also relevant here is They also leverage their own technology to build mobile applications. Its infrastructure is used to build mobile applications for BlackBerry, iPhone, and Windows Mobile."

It's not purely a CRM release, however. SAP and Sybase have also mobilized some key business processes, mostly around SAP's HR application HCM. Processes that require immediate action, such as time recording and travel requests, can be completed through a familiar email interface.

On the SAP side, the license for a mobile gateway covers CRM functionality, and the mobile Business Suite processes come with the Business Suite license. Sybase offers perpetual licenses or subscription licenses for $10 per user per month for up to 10 Business Suite processes. Customers can also purchase the mobile CRM license in a perpetual license or a $15 per user per month subscription license.

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