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SAP, Microsoft Plan Duet Roadmap

SAP and Microsoft aren't strangers to product launch delays. So it seems odd for SAP to be thinking about upgrades when it just barely got the first version out the door a month ago.

But maybe it's learning to limit its product development excesses.

SAP, along with Microsoft, developed Duet, a product that allows users to interact with SAP enterprise software through a Microsoft Office interface.

Only out a month, Duet is already in line for enhancements.

Dennis Moore, general manager for emerging solutions at SAP, told internetnews.com that the company is already discussing specific enhancements with customers and will present an extended product roadmap in the next quarter or two.

"We've been incorporating learnings back into the product and the documentation of the product," said Moore.

He added that SAP has been able to reduce implementation time by 30 percent as a result of that feedback.

The strength of Duet is that it allows knowledge workers in enterprises using SAP to interact with certain SAP applications tied to the calendar functions, such as vacation scheduling, through Microsoft Office desktop solutions.

"Duet is not porting SAP to Office. It's about extending Office to appropriate processes within SAP," Moore explained.

In the short term, said Moore, future iterations of SAP will continue in the same vein, extending that kind of capability to a greater range of SAP applications, such as e-learning and recruiting.

Longer term, Moore said that users will be able to leverage Duet when they work with a greater variety of unstructured data types.

For instance, managers will be able to build reports customized according to key performance indicators.

"They'll have tools to build their own reports using SAP data with Office," said Moore.

Moore's optimism about Duet aside, the current product roadmap is not without speed bumps.

SAP expects to generate incremental sales to current enterprise customers.

"The real market opportunity and real demand for Duet is information workers who are not currently SAP users," said Moore.

But those customers may not be so eager to tag along for the ride.

"Customers planning to implement Duet expect to license only 46 percent of currently licensed SAP users for Duet, and they expect to buy licenses for only 16 percent of users currently without SAP licenses," according to a report by Jim Murphy of AMR Research.

Moore said that for SAP, one of the advantages of Duet is that it has gotten a closer look at the workers within enterprises to which it already sells.

Currently, SAP addresses no more than 30 percent of the employees in enterprises where it has sold a license. The rest of them don't use SAP, and SAP has had little or no experience in dealing with them.

Duet has changed all that.

"SAP has learned a lot about information workers and the desktop," he noted.

For example, customers aren't thrilled with the usability of standard SAP products. It has thus been working on a new user interface, dubbed Project Muse.

The new interface is intended to look much like a browser, which would tie into SAP's on-demand strategy.

Both Microsoft and SAP have spoken volumes about software as a service  in recent months.

Could the companies be mulling an on-demand version of Duet?

Moore wouldn't say.

"We're not talking about Duet on-demand at this moment," he said.