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Hey developers – what seems like a more financially-rewarding bet: A) Building an iPhone consumer app that will, if you are lucky, generate the average of 20 cents per paid and free download?* Or B) building an enterprise app for the iPhone aimed at a hugely profitable industry (think oil and gas, or banking) with millions of employees where the going rate could be $10 per app or more?

I’m hoping you said B). For while the glamour and the upside may be in trying to emulate the success of Angry Birds (which, despite its fame, has probably only made about $75 million), the consumer market remains a brutal, winner-takes-all heirarchy, with tens of thousands of apps making negligible dollars.

By contrast, there is plenty of gold to be mined in the area of enterprise development.

Take SAP: it reaps $18 billion a year in server applications.  With “mobile becoming the new desktop,” to steal a phrase from co-CEO Bill McDermott, it’s obvious that billions of dollars of that enterprise spending will shift over to mobile apps.

Or take Boston Scientific. The medical device maker plans to support 100 apps by the end of this year.

SAP is already aiming for a slice of this pie. It plans to build lots of its own apps (50 by the end of this year) via the Mobile Business Unit under Sybase.  But it doesn’t want to hog it, either. Its inviting partners to clamber aboard the Sybase Unwired Platform (the development middleware required by SAP).

As Sybase CEO John Chen said yesterday, SAP/Sybase only expect to eventually build one-tenth of all mobile SAP apps, and relying on partners to supply the rest.

SAP has a program called the Unwired 100. Its goal: have 100 apps built by partners both big and small or other divisions of SAP (Consulting, for example) by the end of 2011, according to Nathan Henderson, principal for SAP’s Mobility Center of Excellence based in Scottsdale, Az.

SAP is already well on its way: huge mobile partners that already building on top of SUP include IBM, Accenture, Deloitte, CSC, Infosys, Wipro, Tata, and Cap Gemini, said Henderson.  But SAP is also eager to attract small ISVs on the industry and customer front lines, he said.

Unwired 100 only debuted at the beginning of this year. But it’s  already at 32 apps, hitting a third of its goal (22 of them were on  display at SAPPHIRE NOW). Henderson is confident about reaching 100 apps by the end of September.

How do potential partners get involved? Henderson said they should first sign up with SAP’s Partner group, and secondly, sign up for training. “It doesn’t matter if you’re an XCode expert; you need to learn SUP,” he said.

At that point, SAP is willing to work closely with ISVs, including acting as reseller to its customers (and taking a cut of revenue), Henderson said.

But what about the risk that SAP could end up building its own app that competes with an ISV?

It’s the same risk that ISVs who build for Windows have long faced (Microsoft being a huge applications maker, too: Office, SharePoint, Exchange, etc.)

Chen acknowledges the issue.  “The onus is on us not to intrude into their space too much,” he said, adding “I haven’t seen ISVs that are not willing to work with us.”

Take Slalom Consulting, a management consulting firm. At SAPPHIRE NOW, the company showed off a time expense app built for BlackBerries.  Tiago Das, a managing director for Slalom Consulting, says the opportunities in the SAP ecosystem outweigh the risks.

Or as SAP’s Henderson says: “You have an unlimited runway as long as keep innovating ahead of us.”

It might not be as difficult as it may sound. Because of its size, SAP is more likely to build horizontal apps, and build them more slowly than a focused ISV.

That may not satisfy enterprises, who will be pickier about mobile apps than they have been with applications.

“They won’t be happy with an 80% fit, as they might be with server apps, they’ll want 95% fit,” he said.

That leaves plenty of opportunity for the individual developer.

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* I calculated consumer iPhone revenue by taking Distimo’s projection of $2.91 billion in gross 2011 revenue at the Apple App Store, taking out the 30% cut for Apple (which leaves about $2 billion), and then dividing it by the 10.3 billion projected downloads this year.

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25 Comments

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  1. Pierre Dominique
    Hi Eric,

    That sounds great but it won’t happen if SAP/Sybase does not allow developers to get their hands on SUP. Lots of developers have requested a Personal Developer Edition but only a few were able to get it…

    Regards,
    Pierre

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          1. Pierre Dominique
            Hi,

            According to the blog, it should be available through Sybase Product Download Center. But it’s just like the previous releases, Sybase must approve the request or it won’t appear in the product list and you won’t be able to download it.

            Regards,
            Pierre

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            1. Ethan Jewett
              From the FAQ – https://sybase.subscribenet.com/control/sybs/faqs#3

              “Who is eligible to receive Sybase Product Download Center?

              Your organization is eligible to receive Sybase Product Download Center as part of your product and maintenance purchase from Sybase. For Sybase product-related questions, please review the Technical Support listing for contact information.

              The original contact on the order is the default Account Administrator for your organization. The administrator can add additional users and these people will also receive email notifications and have access to the website.”

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        1. Joao Sousa
          It’s not publicly available. What SAP is saying is that you’ll only get the trail if you’re a client, but what it needs to understand is that people who need the trial are PROSPECTIVE clients. Then it needs to understand that if there is burocracy in the process, prospects won’t bother wasting their time!

          Mobile developer cost a ton of money and companies are going to invest in technology that won’t be a pain to hire to. You can’t push SUP to clients, unless you push it to developers and service providers first.

          Even for partners the burocratic process is a mess. I work for a major consultancy and getting our hands on this developer edition is such a trial in patience that our partnership managers would rather avoid wasting time in it.

          Make in PUBLICLY available (in SDN) fast if you are really commited to creating an ecosystem.

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    1. John Moy
      Hi Pierre,

      As you know, I also haven’t managed to get my hands on it.  I followed your excellent blog from last year to apply for the SUP Personal Developer edition.  I waited 2 weeks, then received a call from a Sybase sales representative telling me I needed to be ‘qualified’ (as a sales opportunity).  No problem I figured, I work for a large customer (we currently manage over 5000 handhelds).  It also happened that a sales rep was visiting us for another reason in a week.  I took the matter up with them, they said they will look into it.  Then nothing.  A couple of months later and I was in a meeting with the same Sybase sales rep.  I mentioned my application again, and they said maybe I need to deal with SAP on it.  Clearly there is no desire to promote this platform for developers (at least from my experience locally).  And clearly there is confusion between Sybase and SAP on how to manage it.  The whole experience led me to spend my evening hours instead investigating mobile web frameworks, which led me to jQuery Mobile and PhoneGap, which I ended up blogging about.  If Sybase want SAP developers to support the platform, I think they need to be more engaged with that community, which I think they have yet to understand.  If I want an ABAP server to code and learn against, I simply download it from SCN, no questions asked.  Sybase needs to learn from that.

      Rgds

      John

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      1. Pierre Dominique
        Hi John,

        I think the problem comes from SAP, not from Sybase. We’ve been able to get a copy of SUP Personal Developer Edition because we were partners with Sybase before they were acquired by SAP. I’m in a small company (15 consultants) but it was not an issue at that time. This is really frustrating because SUP is a great platform but most developers/consultants don’t have the opportunity to try it.

        Regards,
        Pierre

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      2. John Moy
        I should add to my post to say that I have now managed to get my hands on a trial for SUP2.0.  It helps (alot) that I work for a prospective customer.  I went via my SAP contact, who then contacted Sybase.  I have since met directly with local Sybase reps to outline the difficulties I encountered.  I think that the interaction processes between SAP and Sybase are still being refined.  That said, I had a very positive meeting and I think that locally they are getting the message (apparently I wasn’t the only person locally who they needed to deal with on this issue).  Of course, this should ultimately be resolved at a global level … ideally a trial version downloadable straight from the website.
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  2. Ethan Jewett
    Quote: How do potential partners get involved? Henderson said they should first sign up with SAP’s Partner group, and secondly, sign up for training. “It doesn’t matter if you’re an XCode expert; you need to learn SUP,” he said.

    Any idea how hard it is to sign up as an SAP Partner? I’ve seen the process second-hand a couple of times and it wasn’t pretty. I’ve heard from many others who agree that the process is cumbersome and expensive.

    After becoming a partner, I have the opportunity to spend $3,300 (current list price) on Sybase Unwired Platform training.

    At this point, SAP may be willing to work closely with me.

    Personally, I don’t think this process will have much success attracting small ISVs or individual web developers who are comfortable with far less cumbersome processes.

    Best regards,
    Ethan

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  3. Thorsten Franz
    No matter how good SUP is – if it doesn’t become as easily available to developers as easily as, say, the Flex SDK, I see a grim future for it in the SAP ecosystem, because people will do the same as John Moy: just write it off and move on to something else.
    Also, reading the comments here, I notice that an astonishing number of influencers and opinion leaders were put off in a short time (presumably with minimal effort, too ;-)).
    Let’s work together on making this better.
    Cheers,
    Thorsten
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    1. Eric Lai Post author
      @Thorsten @Pierre @John @Ethan and @Paul – I hear you loud and clear. I am e-mailing my colleagues, including superiors, at Sybase and SAP, with your feedback to make sure they understand the gap between what we say re: SUP, and the reality, at least from the smaller ISV/individual developer point-of-view. I’ll try to weigh in again here and/or via another blog about what policies we can change to make things better. Anyone else with feedback, please post a comment here, too, so we can let them know…
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      1. Bjorn Vilhjalmsson
        I have posted this complaint on another blog and in the mobile forum here on SDN as well as on online sybase presentations where a sybase marketing executive promised to try to help move things along with respect to getting a developer/test version of SUP, direct contact with the local SAP office and various other sybase contact people in several offices 🙂  Hopefully someone can cut through the red tape and help us help Sybase in making the mobile dream a reality.
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  4. Martin English
    Hi,
    I’m in a similar position to others here, in that I can’t access a copy of SUP.  In my case, you won’t get a sale directly from my involvement or use of the product. However, I’m the BASIS and Technology consultant for some SME’s. At the moment, I can only recommend device specific or pure HTML5 development for these SAP customers, as neither they nor I can get hold of the software to perform decent benchmarking of development times, performance and so on.
    Another point of view that has been expressed is that Android, IOS and HTML5 skills are already relatively common, certainly more common than SUP skills. Without engaging the development community, this disparity will
    remain. In short, the chicken and the egg; Customers will use the skills / people they can get, and SUP usage will not
    grow to its full potential.

    hth

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  5. Gregory Misiorek
    feels like Kafka throwing a catch 22 and all this in the post Apple store era. John Moy, Paul Aschmann, Thorsten Franz, Ethan Jewett, and others won’t wait for ever and will find some other way out of this sales cycle rigmarole. SUP risks oblivion unless embraced by the development community.
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  6. Jan Penninkhof
    I can’t agree more with the comments below and do hope that SAP can be more forthcoming in a possibility to get some hands-on experience with this new product. Ultimately, it would be great to be able to download it from SDN.

    I do wonder whether it isn’t already too late though. Many people I have spoken to in the area of mobility & SAP are not even considering SUP (anymore). The lack of Android support, high license prices and high tresholds to get a dev/trial products have driven them into the arms of Appcelerator, Openplug and Phonegap in combination with other modeling tools.

    If you want to make SUP succesful, I really think that you will have to make sure these issues are resolved quickly. Many enterprises are still in the process of setting up their mobile strategy and if I were SAP/Sybase I would make sure that I wouldn’t miss even those last few carriages of the train because of trivialities.

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    1. Jan Laros
      Hi Jan,

      Actually I don’t agree with all of your statements. Off course you’re right when you say that SAP/Sybase should enable their partners to get their hands dirty in an early stage. This will drive the development of customer/partner solutions on the platform and will eventually leverage SUP as a platform.

      Regarding the customers: I have been in a few interesting discussions at several companies that want to go mobile. In the end the conclusion was that SUP is the way to go for them. Its flexibility, transparancy (ok, that’s a whole other discussion 😉 ) and the future that seems to provide in lots of ‘out-of-the-box’ solutions are solid arguments to vote for SUP. The other middleware platforms for Mobile require a lot more custom development and the high degree of integration with SAP backend systems (NW Mobile and NW Gateway)that SUP provides, are weighing heavingly.

      On the other hand: It’s always good to be critical and challenge the discussion at customers.

      Best regards,

      Jan Laros

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  7. Chris Paine
    I think we’ve proven that SUP is not “required” to do mobile things with SAP.

    It might be a great solution, but unless it comes to my home tinkering machine with the same ease as the Android SDK, I’m not going to play with it. And if I don’t play with it or want to play with it, I’m not going to be proactive about asking my company to get it. And if they don’t get it, then they aren’t going to sell it to their customers.

    The article is right, the time is ripe for a suite of mobile apps to come along and make money out of SAP and ERPs in general. But unless us developers are supported that suite is going to come without SUP.

    Sorry for repeating a frustration that is echoed by many in this blog, but I think it should be clear how many people are feeling this pain, and secondly, if perchance there is a response along the lines of “here’s a sneak peak SUP download, I want to know about it!

    Cheers,

    Chris

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    1. Chris Paine
      and… $3000  to “sign up for training. “It doesn’t matter if you’re an XCode expert; you need to learn SUP”

      those kinda bucks to just play/try out a solution –

      “tell em they’re dreaming.”

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      1. John Moy
        Chris,

        Be aware that Simon Kemp went on training this week (paid for by his company presumably) but it turned out to be on SUP 1.5, not SUP 2.0

        So if you did pay for that out of your own pocket and ended up with training on an old release, you would be VERY unimpressed!

        Rgds

        John

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        1. Eric Lai Post author
          John and others – I agree, that should not have happened to Simon.

          I had promised an update several weeks ago. I’ve made as many people inside Sybase/SAP know about your complaints.

          Believe me, wheels are turning and the right people inside SAP and SUP are grappling with this issue right now.

          For now, I’m sorry that I don’t have better news to report.

          In the meantime, here are a few resources that might be of some help:

          SUP 2.0 datasheet http://www.sybase.com/detail?id=1090908

          SUP 2.0 Webcast from last week
          http://response.sybase.com/forms/WW11Q2SUPWBCST20Launch

          SUP Developer Program channel on YouTube, with on-screen demos:
          http://www.youtube.com/user/SUPDeveloperProgram

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          1. Bjorn Vilhjalmsson
            I appreciate your help Eric.  In the last 2 weeks I have discussed this same topic with 2 more people within Sybase that have offered to help push this since we are in a situation of selecting a platform for a major customer with tens of thousands of using in the coming years.  We have been looking at the alternatives with the customer in the last few weeks, instead of digging into SUP due to this issue.  In the end this is potentially going to lead to a huge loss in sales to Sybase/SAP which is very unfortunate because on paper and in presentations this looks great.
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