Microsoft, SAP Plot Duet Software Road Map

Microsoft and SAP have announced that they will extend their commitment to continue working on their Duet software, a jointly developed solution that integrates Microsoft’s Office suite with SAP’s back-end enterprise applications.

On Tuesday, both companies outlined plans for future versions of the integration software at SAP’s Sapphire user conference in Atlanta.

Duet allows users to access SAP applications via the familiar Office interface.

“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.

New Duet Versions

Later this year, Duet 1.5 will come out followed by Duet 2.0 toward the end of 2008, said Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft’s business division.

Version 2.0 will be enhanced with additional capabilities, development tools and scenarios — in Duet vernacular, a “scenario” describes integration capabilities that zero in on specific business areas such as budget monitoring.

Version 2.0 enhancements will include new business scenario support for sales and supply chain management, and other business scenarios — extended capabilities will allow sales professionals to manage sales leads. In addition, supply chain managers will have new capabilities for purchasing and legal contract management. There will also be support for selected governance, risk and compliance scenarios.

Users will be able to access SAP’s CRM data from both Office and mySAP applications. In addition, the new version includes an expansion of Duet to support unstructured processes.

The combination of SAP Business Suite and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server — which supports team collaboration — will streamline the way users interact and share information within the enterprise, the companies said.

When Duet 3.0 is released, the next major upgrade of Office will likely have come out and SharePoint will become “a prerequisite” for Duet, Raikes said.

What It Means

The announcement might be significant when considering recent comments by Microsoft executives that Duet is a limited product when compared to the work that Redmond is doing to integrate Office with its own back-end applications. Also, both vendors are competitors who would like to control the corporate desktop.

“These are the types of big vendor announcements to give end users a sense of what the future holds for them as they continue down a path with companies that are strategic partners,” Denis Pombriant, principal of the Beagle Research Group, told CRM Buyer.

Where It’s Headed

“SAP and Microsoft are doing the ‘opening of the kimono’ that we have always seen, and [companies] do this every so often. Some of the things that are talking about will take years to fully develop and deploy. I tend to think this is a way to assure customers that their investments in SAP and Microsoft will continue to bear fruit,” added Pombriant.

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.

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