A couple of weeks ago in Sapphire Orlando, SAP introduced the world to a new user interface, code-named “Project Muse”. I thought I’d give the SDN’ers a quick overview of what it is. Basically, Muse is a new interface thru which SAP users can access any SAP application directly from their Macintosh, Linux or Windows client device, and in the future from integrated mobile devices.
Project Muse is being built from the ground up as an open, standards-based architecture– using Flash and Flex technologies from Adobe/Macromedia. Project Muse can be easily extended to deliver applications, composites and any other service-enabled software from SAP and its partners or from other solution providers (think: ubiquitous business user interface for all your enterprise systems). The new client adds the richness of desktop software to the deployment efficiency of Internet software, delivering on SAP’s vision of simplifying the user experience and the software ownership experience.
Muse consists of two basic elements: The “Frame” and the “Canvas” .
The Frame contains standard menu items across the top, thumbnails of open sessions and transactions for easy navigation back and forth between screens. On the left side of the canvas, users have role-based functionality.
Underneath the top level navigation and left side navigation in the frame, users see the Canvas , which displays the actual screen or transaction where they’re doing their work. The canvas is a native representation of whatever technology the source application provides its screens in. So, if the transaction you want to consume in Muse is only available in HTML, the user will have the Muse Frame in Flash and the Canvas in HTML. You can display almost any type of standard UI technology inside the canvas.
Here’s a few examples of what the “native” screens look like inside the Muse frame.
Active X (MSFT Office)
WebDynpro/Visual Composer/Flex Screen
A quick FAQ:
Where did the idea for Project Muse come from? Its an extension of the work we’ve been doing over the past couple years with Adobe on Interactive Forms and with Macromedia on the Flex client for WebDynpro and Visual Composer. Its another step SAP is taking to simplify the end-to-end user experience in SAP environments. Check out wikipedia for a description of why we thought Muse was a cool project name for such an “inspirational” user interface.)
Is this a replacement for SAP GUI? Yes and no. It is clearly designed as the next-generation user experience for “professional” SAP users, but that’s not to say that SAP will be getting rid of SAP GUI any time soon. Over time, SAP customers will be able to roll out Muse clients at their own pace, gradually eliminating the need for SAP GUI for increasing numbers of SAP users. That doesn’t mean you have to switch all your users to Muse or that SAP will de-support SAP GUI. With Muse, SAP users will still get all the functionality they have today in SAP GUI and all your SAP GUI screens will work perfectly inside Muse. SAP does think that long-term, most professional SAP users will prefer the extended capabilities of Muse over SAP GUI, but ultimately its the user’s choice how they want to interact with SAP. Its highly probable that a user can do purchase orders all day in Muse, do Employee Self Service in the Portal, book time and expenses in Duet and approve workflows on a mobile device. All the processes are happening in the backend SAP systems, but the user can choose the UI they prefer to interact with the business process. SAP is also putting a great deal of effort into making sure that Muse is so intuitive and familiar to users who are highly proficient with SAP GUI today, that it should only be a matter of a few minutes of familiarization for somebody to transition to Muse. And for the IT department, moving to Muse is pretty easy since its just the front-end that’s changing, nothing in the backend systems has to be changed or modified to enable Muse.
How does Project Muse work with the SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Portal? The Portal is a fundamental part of Muse (just like in Duet)– its behind the scenes doing a lot of work (roles, security, etc), but the end user doesn’t see portal content thru a browser, its displayed in the Muse canvas instead. By using the Portal framework together with Muse, we can do all the types of “management” functions that are in the Portal most people know today, but we can take it much further because with Muse on the actual client device, and not running thru a web browser, we’re not bound by some of the typical limitations of web-based interfaces. Muse is actually the best of both worlds: Robust “thick client” capabilities that seamlessly consume and interact with web-based “thin client” capabilities. iViews and other Portal content are easily consumed in the Muse canvas, so you don’t have to rewrite anything to display Portal screens inside Muse or duplicate any of the backend portal framework capabilities to use Muse. Its built on the same infrastructure, so its an easy extension from all your existing NetWeaver landscape into the Muse world.
What are the SAP prerequisites? mySAP ERP 2005 and SAP NetWeaver 2004s. Why? Because of the services-based nature of Muse, it can only function if it has a backend application and infrastructure that is capable of providing and consuming enterprise services (and a lot of other really technical reasons). Muse isn’t just a better looking SAP GUI, its an entirely different usage experience for SAP applications– so there’s a different paradigm involved with how the user “consumes” SAP and other non-SAP apps thru Muse. Muse supports all existing SAP user interfaces including Adobe’s Macromedia Flash, Adobe PDF, HTML, Web Dynpro, and Dynpro screens. Whatever screens you have in an ERP05 system today is where you will start with Muse. Over time, SAP will be providing updated and “beautified” screens for its more heavily used horizontal and industry transactions (in bundles throughout the next several quarters). Customers and partners can also use the same WebDynpro and Visual composer tools that SAP is using to update any custom screens that they’ve created.
What are the desktop prerequisites? Muse will run on Adobe’s new Apollo framework, which is basically a merger of Acrobat Reader and Flash Player technologies. Over 98% of computers in the world already have the basic prerequisites for running Muse. SAP and Adobe will be jointly engineering the deployment model for Muse on Apollo over the next few months—stay tuned for more info about that. Because of the close collaboration with Adobe, Muse will look, feel and behave exactly the same on whatever client OS being used. However– since its able to consume web services, there are some very cool possibilities for OS-specific extensions.
How does Project Muse work with all the other SAP interfaces? Muse is one of multiple ways for end users to access SAP business processes. SAP doesn’t think there’s only one way to consume SAP, so we’re providing multiple ways for users to consume SAP the way that they would prefer. Kind of like Burger King: Get SAP “your way”. Here’s a list of a few of the different ways that end users can get SAP functionality, even if SAP is “hidden” behind the “face” of another technology.
- SAP® xApp™ Analytics leveraging Adobe’s Macromedia® Flex® software
- Duet™ software for use with Microsoft® Office and SAP software
- Interactive Forms based on Adobe® software
- SAP NetWeaver® Portal
- Mobile and voice solutions
When can a customer or partner get their hands on Project Muse? SAP aims to make the new user interface available to customers running mySAP™ Business Suite applications, delivering it with mySAP ERP 2005 in waves through a series of enhancement packages. The first customers and partners will get access to beta versions later in 2006 and it will be made widely available in 2007.
Can Project Muse be extended or modified by SAP customers/partners? Absolutely. Since its based on ubiquitous Adobe technologies and is entirely services based, customers/partners can have a great deal of flexibility to modify the Muse interface to their needs. You’ll be able to “skin” it with branding and integrate almost any services-based functionality from other enterprise or web systems.
How much does Muse cost? SAP hasn’t announced any pricing details and typically doesn’t discuss that type of thing in public. What I can say is that Muse will be very cheap to acquire, deploy and administer in an enterprise due to the ubiquity of the Adobe products that are already installed on everybody’s computers today. (really, how much time does the IT department spend managing Flash Player or Acrobat reader?)