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SAP to launch ERP suite in September

German ERP giant SAP has been mighty coy about its promised hosted ERP suite, aka A1S.

Well one tidbit has emerged (don’t ask how). The long anticipated product will launch in September. An SAP spokesperson would not comment on timing of any A1S launch.

Whether “launch” means actual service availability—as in a REAL launch or is a marketing ploy—merely an event to re-announce the plan and to promise availability for some future time is unclear.

Last April, SAP execs, clearly pressured by the SaaS boomlet that competitors have latched onto, demonstrated A1S to a roomful of users and a few reporters at SAPPHIRE 2007 in April.

At the show they said some customers and partners had access to an early “validation” stage of the service which offered “see it, try it, buy it” buttons for prospects.

SAP small and medium enterprise exec Hans-Peter Klaey said at that time said to expect volume readiness of A1S in early 2008.

Whatever the A1S timeline, it’s clear that the specter of hosted business solutions and the related software-as-a-service model have taken the established software providers by storm. Solution providers give Oracle’s hosted CRM On Demand a big thumbs up, for example, and say its $70 per user per month price is giving Salesforce.com a run for its money among cost-conscious buyers.

Plus, they say, the Oracle (aka Siebel) product is much fuller featured than the Salesforce.com stuff. Microsoft is readying a self-hosted (as well as partner-hosted) CRM Live bits for broad availability early next year. As of last month, Microsoft had not decided whether or not to self-host ERP, according to one Microsoft Business Solutions exec.

Some partners view these vendor-hosted options as a threat. Others maintain that a solution provider’s real value is in specialized domain expertise and customization skills which will be needed even if partners do not participate in the hosting play itself.

One SAP partner specializing in SMB implementations says he is interested in hearing more about A1S.

“Many larger organizations that are organized in such a way that an SaaS model makes sense for them and many of those organizations need a higher-end ERP than Salesforce.com can provide,” he said.

Barbara Darrow is a Boston-area freelance journalist. She can be reached at Badarrow@comcast.net.

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