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The Sybase Unwired Platform has generated a fair amount of interest this past year from enterprise developers. But to be honest, there’s been frustration, too.

The frustration comes not from the SUP technology itself, which made a huge leap with version 2.0 this May with the launch of two major new features: 1) the ability for tens of millions of Web developers to code for mobile in languages familiar to them such as HTML5, Javascript and CSS; 2) the ability to create ‘hybrid’ apps that run inside a Web browser (for easy porting between, for example, between Android and iOS) while still offering the rich UI of a native app.

Nor was it the frustration of developers who felt trapped in the uneasy situation of feeling reliant upon and competitive with SAP in enterprise mobility. Any experienced enterprise developer has probably dealt with co-optition before. Microsoft, for instance, is one of the biggest sellers of applications on its own Window platform. And Google this summer bought Motorola, putting it in competition with its many Android handset and tablet partners.

While SAP has brought out 30+ mobile apps of its own, it has also taken pains to reassure and woo developers. For instance, the new SAP Store for Mobile Apps will only reap 15% of app revenue – just half of Apple’s take from its App Store. 

SAP’s public goal is to build an ecosystem such that partner apps outnumber its own 4 to 1. It pretty much hit that at SAPPHIRE Madrid, showcasing more than a hundred apps in development or nearing completion from partners.

Rather, the biggest complaints centered around these things:  1) difficulty for developers, especially those working at smaller or one-person shops, to get a trial copy of SUP 2.0;

2) the difficulty at getting trained at SUP right away;

3) the cost of SUP compared to other development platforms that have adopted freemium or other similar low upfront-cost models.

Developers can be a noisy bunch. So suffice to say that the frustration was palpable.

During deep-dive sessions at the SAP Influencer Summit last week, SAP and Sybase executives revealed plans to address these concerns. Thanks to SAP Mentor Dagfinn Parnas for being the first to tweet out that in 2012, SAP is planning to introduce:

1) a hands-on trial version of SUP for developers;

2) an SAP center to directly support SUP developers with learning resources, developer forums, access to experts, and more;

(This is not to diminish the ongoing efforts of people at Sybase like Stanley Stadelman, Loren Corbridge and others who have been working hard to produce materials such as the most recent “MBO Best Practices” white paper as well as the SUP Dev Blog.)

http://blogs.sybase.com/mobiledevelopment/3) a new, less-expensive runtime license of SUP.

I don’t have any more details at this point. But the reaction from developers in the SAP ecosystem has been positive.

The developer center is “excellent news,” tweeted Australian developer, John Moy. “It will certainly improve developer engagement…Whatever gets the technology in the hands of developers easily and freely is what matters.”

Moy also applauded the SUP run-time license. “If true, this improves [the] value prop” for companies who are only interested in running apps built upon SUP (which requires an SUP run-time license), but are not planning to develop their own custom apps on SUP. The latter still requires a full SUP license.

Another developer, Kevin Grove, tweeted to me that this “sounds like win-win for all. And it reaffirms that SAP listen to the #SAPCommnet dialogue.”

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3 Comments

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  1. Tobias Hofmann
    Great news. I applied for a SUP developer license months ago and never even got a “sorry, you won’t get one” response. Now I only have to wait until the trial download gets reality.

    The trial license will expire after 90 days or is renewable? Will this trial version also feature an ABAP server? And may I also ask for a SUP 2.1 trial version?

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  2. Ethan Jewett
    It’s been an awfully long time since the launch and just now a plan is being shared for delivering a developer version. This is progress, but I wouldn’t declare victory just yet.

    We need a realization within SAP & Sybase that developer engagement is not an optional part of an infrastructure product launch. Do you ever launch a product without documentation? No.

    Just like a product would never get the launch go-ahead without documentation, an technology product should never get the go-ahead without a basic developer engagement plan, including sharing with developers an exact timeline for: training availability, comprehensive developer documentation, the ability to get developer access to systems in a self-service manner. Preferably all of this is available at launch, but a plan must at least be shared in order to keep developer interest.

    It is good that teams are working on this, but what is shared here isn’t even a concrete plan. Despite the fact that I have a lot of access to SAP and now Sybase as an SAP Mentor, I am struggling to find evidence that this need is understood across the organizations. Some product teams do a really good job of this and some teams ignore the need completely.

    In this day and age, developer engagement is not optional. I wonder if this is understood within Sybase?

    Cheers,
    Ethan

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  3. Michelle Crapo
    Well since we don’t have SUP at my company nor any plans to get it, I should probably wait until learning about it.

    So I like plenty of customers are probably waiting to see what happens.  It’s interesting when SAP acquires 3rd party software.  How will it integrate in the future?  When it is first a product it seems like it is still 3rd party.  Later on it is more tightly integrated.

    So I am waiting until we understand the value, and purchase it.  Perhaps we never will.

    It’s one of those skills that would be nice to have.  But I wonder if it is a Have to Have.  How many people will embrace it?  There are some really good consultants designing mobile apps without SUP.  So what is the advantage?

    It is very cool that SAP listens to the developer group.  I like that a lot!

    Michelle

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