Mikes Sisois, chief information officer at San Jose, Calif.-based Atmel Corp., a large manufacturer of advanced semiconductors, has been running mySAP ERP 2004 in a sandbox with Duet, the newly branded Microsoft-SAP Mendocino software.
The main benefit of Duet accrues not so much to current full-time SAP users, Sisois said, but to the segment of occasional users who just need to pull reports, customer info, and the like on the fly.
"A remote sales rep preparing for a user visit will be able to just reach in and grab the background information he needs," Sisois said. "Compare this to having to drive in to the office and get that information, or having someone get that information for you and fax it over."
Duet, the project formerly code-named Mendocino, was officially launched Tuesday with a joint press conference held by Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft's Business Division, and Shai Agassi, SAP executive board member and president of the Product and Technology Group. The arrival comes with a dedicated Web site (Duet.com), a 13-city road show, and a flurry of early beta tester testimonials.
Atmel is planning a full mySAP ERP 2004 deployment in June and a staggered rollout of Duet through the end of the year, Sisois said.
Implementation of Duet was easy, Sisois said, and he expects user training to be fairly quick and cost-effective as a result of the familiarity of the ubiquitous Office interface.
Analysts have balked at the early version of Duet, citing the need for greater functionality beyond employee and manager tasks. But Agassi and Raikes said the goal of Duet was to link everyday SAP tasks with the Microsoft Office environment familiar to end users.
"People are feeling a sense of information overload, and in some cases this leads to information underload," Raikes said. "SAP's leadership in the enterprise space is the thing we focused on jointly; in addition, we are each approaching how Office fits into the rest of our product lines."
Early functionality in Duet has been "quite thin," said Paul Hamerman, vice president of enterprise applications at Forrester Research Inc. "This announcement is more about revealing a strategy or roadmap moving forward."
Rather than explaining the new features in Duet 2.0 at this point, SAP and Microsoft are focusing on two value packs to be released in the third and fourth quarters of 2006.
These packs will add many scenarios and functionalities, such as CRM, SCM and analytics, and will take advantage of the Duet capabilities of the Office 12 release coming later this year.
"The CRM customer base is going to have Duet capability by the end of this year," Agassi said in the press conference.
Future versions will also allow companies to build customized scenarios, and a developer pack will enable SAP partner ISVs to build, license and sell custom scenarios, Agassi said.
The general availability of Duet is promised for June 2006. Legal issues prevented joint discussion about pricing, but the Microsoft price is set to $125 per computer, plus an additional $125 license per server, according to Rob Koplowitz, director of Microsoft Office Business Applications Group. He said that there are currently no plans for any type of rebate program.
Microsoft's ERP product Dynamics will inevitably compete to some extent, Koplowitz said.
"However, Dynamics will remain a very strategic business opportunity for Microsoft," he said. "This is very good for Office, and there is a massive cross section of customers that will benefit."
Size difference of the target audience is another factor. Duet is aimed at large enterprise customers with revenues of $1 billion per year or more, according to Kevin Fliess, SAP's vice president of product marketing for emerging solutions. Dynamics is aimed at the midmarket, Fliess said.
On the issue of what's next in the SAP-Microsoft partnership, Agassi restated SAP and Microsoft's commitment to providing users with supporting technology. He was not prepared to discuss future co-developed and co-branded products quite yet, however.
"This is a first," Agassi said. "We'll see how well this takes, and I'm sure that if it generates value for our two companies and our customers, we'll talk again about future opportunities."
This article originally appeared on SearchSAP.com