The inherent tension in the Microsoft-SAP alliance was spelled out by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during his keynote at yesterday’s Convergence 2008 event: “SAP is sometimes a collaborator, sometimes competition.”
Competition is the aspect of the relationship that is coming to the forefront right now, as Microsoft’s ongoing interest pits Redmond against Walldorf for high stakes: The small and medium-sized business market. Convergence 2008, for example, has highlighted Microsoft’s ERP and CRM products, both of which play to the mid-market.
Cooperation between the two companies is largely in the form of Duet, the technology partnership that allows Microsoft products to serve as a front end for SAP applications. Duet has several hundred thousand customers and is generating revenue for both companies.
With both Microsoft’s business applications and Microsoft-SAP Duet going strong, the question is when the existing ‘co-opetition’ between the two companies will tip over into full-fledged rivalry. The mid-market is a hugely lucrative space for e-business software providers and may yet break up the Duet.
Finally, it’s interesting to see how Microsoft’s messaging geniuses managed to pull one over on SAP on Microsoft’s SAP partnership page. Here, Microsoft defines itself as making SAP “People-Ready,” as if SAP on its own is not people-ready. It’s a subtle point, but it illustrates the scope of Microsoft’s ambition and calls into question Redmond’s ability to sustain a long-term partnership with a ‘co-opetitor’ such as SAP.
Demir Barlas, Site Editor