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In chess, good players fight for control of the center of the board, knowing that a positional advantage will eventually translate into a material advantage, and then checkmate. Tech vendors play the same way, battling over the ecosystem of partners and developers, knowing that it will translate to paying customers – and victory – in the endgame. 

That explains the importance of Tuesday’s announcement that the Sybase Unwired Platform now supports the Web.

SUP 2.0 enables two new things. First, it lets developers create regular, so-called ‘native’ apps running on tablets and smartphones, as well, as new ‘hybrid’ apps that run inside a Web browser but offer the rich UI of a native app.

Second, SUP 2.0 now lets developers use Web standard languages including HTML5, Javascript and CSS to create apps.

So why is that key? Let’s break it down.

1) Reach. There may be about half a million mobile developers in the world today total. By comparison, there may be tens of millions of people who have written or at least fiddled with HTML code, judging by the number of Web sites that exist.

The number of real Web developers remains uncertain. What is certain that they outnumber the mobile developer population by a huge factor. And I have argued that the rise of Web 2.0 last decade diverted many developers from mobile, leading to a relative dearth of mobile apps, especially in the enterprise side.

While SUP 2.0 is not the first development platform to embrace the Web, it is the first enterprise-focused one. And it has the backing of SAP, which is using it to build all of the 30-some enterprise mobile apps it expects to release in the next half year.

2) Agility. You could argue that SUP already had access to a large pool of developers via its support of the popular Eclipse development platform, which supports Java and other languages.

True true. But supporting HTML has other benefits. SUP was already a tool for writing apps once, running them on multiple platforms such as Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, etc. But even after porting, there was some amount of tweaking involved, especially if the UI is important.

Using an embedded Webkit runtime as a browser for hybrid apps further reduces the difference in UI and functionality across multiple devices.That means even less post-porting work for developers.

3) Speed. Because hybrid mobile apps are faster to create, they make more sense when the app you are trying to create is a relatively lightweight workflow. In fact, given the choice, enterprises will largely prefer to build hybrid apps, Sybase officials say.

Because many times all you need to mobilize is an approval process (Yes or No). In those cases, there’s no reason to go to the trouble of creating a native app.

While SAP has talked about its grand ambitions to become the largest maker of packaged enterprise mobile apps (just as it already leads the server application markets for ERP, CRM and BI), it is not sidestepping middleware such as SUP in the slightest.

All of SAP’s packaged apps run on top of SUP, and it is encouraging its partners to do the same. The message is compelling enough that even Syclo, which has its own Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP) in competition with SUP, is moving away from middleware towards building apps – on top of SUP.

The net net for SAP’s enterprise customers is that they will all likely be licensing and running SUP either directly or indirectly.

And while packaged apps will be a faster, cheaper deployment route for most enterprise customers, some will still prefer the old-fashioned control that only custom development through a tool such as SUP can provide.

Sales of MEAPs such as SUP are expected to grow to $1.5 billion this year from $1 billion last year, according to IDC.

So we’re still in the opening stage of the enterprise mobile game. But with a cutting-edge platform, packaged mobile apps rushing down the pipe, combined with its long-standing dominance in server applications, SAP’s pieces are poised to take control of the center of the board.

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11 Comments

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  1. Ethan Jewett
    It’s good to see SAP going in this direction. However, as with most things SAP, saying you want developers and actually attracting developers are two very different things. I worry that the same thing is going to happen here that has happened with Netweaver and is happening with ByDesign – namely exclusion of the vast majority of developers who are not associated with an SAP partner organization.

    So, say I’m one of these web developers you are talking about. How do I get started on SUP 2.0?

    Ethan

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    1. Girish Ogirala
      Ethan,

      Welcome to Sybase Unwired Platform 2.0. I will  be more than happy to help you get started on the development. I have been working with SAP and Sybase SUP teams since 2009. Please let me know how can I be of help to you. Lets start with if you have access to the software (at least a 30 day version). Then you can start to develop a simple application for a iPhone simulator or device (Sybase free App)/Windows emulator/Blackberry simulator by referring to the tutorials that are available in SDN.

      Good luck and let me know if you need any help.

      Best regards,
      GO.

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      1. Ethan Jewett
        Hi Girish,

        Thanks for chiming in. So how does one get access to the software? I don’t have it. A 30-day version would be a good start, but for developers to seriously get into it we will need an unlimited length trial/developer version.

        Where would someone download either of these versions of the software?

        Cheers,
        Ethan

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          1. Ethan Jewett
            Hi Girish,

            I work for a partner, so I have some options. But even for me it is going to be a larger hassle than is worth it when there are other great mobile frameworks out there that I can download and get started working on in 15 minutes or less. Now imagine if I weren’t a partner!

            My point is not that it’s impossible to get the software (though that may well be true). My point is that, even when working perfectly, the standard SAP and Sybase partner and customer channels are not adequate for jump-starting a developer ecosystem.

            We’ve got to figure out how to make it simple to get started.

            Cheers,
            Ethan

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          2. Chandan Vashista
            Hi Girish,

            I read through the trail. We are also interested in getting access to SUP and build apps on it.

            We are a new company and are neither SAP partner nor customer. So how do we get access to SUP 2.0?

            Regards,
            Chandan

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      2. Eric Lai Post author
        Girash – thanks for your reply. Are you as an SAP partner able to help developers get access to SUP? None of them seem to be able to to get access to this 30-day edition that you mention.

        And did you see the comments at my other post?
        SAP is Building its Mobile App Ecosystem – Fast

        I am pinging people internal at Sybase and SAP hoping to get some positive answers.

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        1. Girish Ogirala
          Eric,

          yes I read your other blog too. I am not too sure either if Sybase or SAP willing to have SUP as part of Downloadable Software on SDN as generally done by SAP.

          GO.

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  2. Melih Özbağı
    Eric,
    I don’t know why but SAP does not allow downloading SUP even for trial evaluation. It has been almost a month since I fill up the registration form but nobody has responded yet.
    There are lots of similar threats on SDN about this mysterious behavior of SAP!
    Cheers
    Melih  
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  3. Joao Sousa
    Hey Web Developers! SAP’s Sybase Unwired Platform Wants YOU but won’t provide a trial version. So keep dreaming about what SUP is! (or probably forget about in the next 30 seconds).

    You say there are millions of web developers out there. True, but making a HTML5 application has absolutly zero relation to building a web page in HTML.

    Worse, building a HTML5 SUP application has even less relation to building a web site. SAP has made this mistake before, thinking the bet on Java would bringing in millions of SAP developers. Has it? No.

    Bottom line, you need developers (HTML or otherwise) to invest in your platform (it won’t be the millions “out there” that will sell your software), and the way to do it is not to hide trial software behind a wall of burocratic non-sense. SAP/Sybase has absolutly nothing to lose in providing trial demos (except maybe training fees).

    I’ve had Sybase SUP training, I want to get my hands on SUP 2.0 to try out his new HTML5 stuff (since the “Bring your own device” basically kills native development), and I can’t.

    And yes, I request the trial everywhere, I simply cannot understand SAP/Sybase behaviour when you own words are “We want you!”. I reply: “No you don’t”.

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  4. Interface XMII/XI
    Well as commented by many , i too shout my voice ..though i registered twice for software . i didnot get any trial version link to download.Product should have trial for having feel then only we can take forward for the management and then to client.

    Hope SAP guys who bought Sysbase would plan for trial download , or else sybase would be with Sybase 😉

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