During my time at TechEd and in the preceding months I have had many conversations about how SAP are going to monetize mobile apps following the acquisition of Sybase.
If they adopt the consumer model in the Apple Apps store and start to sell apps for 0.99c (yes I know not all the apps on the apps store are 0.99c but give me some poetic licence (or what ever it is called in the Blogosphere)) then they will need to sell :
5,050,505,051 or one download each for 70% of the worlds population.
However SAP isn’t going down the “pile it high sell it cheap route” at least not yet.
In the first cut of the SAP Mobile Apps store all applications will have to run through the Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP), so this probably means we are not going to see an Angry Birds or SAP vs Zombies front-ends for CRM complaints management any time soon.
More seriously it probably means that most apps on the store will either be from SAP or some of SAPs traditional partners as these are the only people who are geared up to understand the infrastructure required to make mobile apps work on the SUP platform. It also probably means that they will be expensive (and maybe a bit dull).
So the strategy appears to be “pile them as high as we can whilst maintaining quality (and selling SUP)”
Some analysts believe the addressable market for this model might be 1,000 to 2,000 companies. If this is true (let’s take the larger number as SAP sales teams are good ☺)) then SAP will have to sell each one :
$2,525,252 worth of mobile apps to each of those 2,000 customer and you don’t need an Apps Store to sell to 2,000 customers who would also need an Amex Black card for the $2m+ credit card payment ☺
In addition I think the problem SAP face is that to make the above a success will require CIOs (or at least 2000 of them) to think strategically about Mobility because of the level of investment required when investing in an Enterprise Mobility Platform like SUP. This will slow their time to market which will annoy the business who are screaming for “Apps – Now !”
People will roll their Own
This will then lead to people rolling their own Mobile Apps (using various different approaches), which will be bad for SAP long term as SUP adoption will be lower than it could have been as other technology platforms will be used for mobilisation by customers instead of using SAP technologies for always connected scenarios (e.g Gateway and jQuery enabled Portal (which is coming soon)).
So I accept that having SUP should be in SAP customers plans AND if they have a specific app which is first on their list that NEEDS off-line capability or they want one of the packaged apps from SAP (which all use SUP) then SUP should be the first step.
However it is not the only pattern that is possible for Mobile with SAP tools and by not allowing other mobile solutions into the Mobile Apps, SAP are limiting the market.
Why not let the market decide which approach is best for each scenario they want to enable ? If I create an on-line only app and the market really wants an off-line one then mine will not sell.
The Long Tail of (Mobile) Applications
A long time ago I blogged about the long tail of applications which was based on the Long Tail book by Chris Anderson. In it I discussed how small software houses would be able to provide software that larger companies would never build as they would view the addressable market at too small.
In that case of the SAP Mobile Apps we have some way to go to put all the pieces in place to enable a Long Tail of SAP Mobile Apps, which will inevitably limit the level of innovation we see – shame, it could have been a really exciting ride.