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SAP CIO On iPad 2, Playbook and Honeycomb

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Yesterday I had a long conversation with Oliver Bussman, the CIO of SAP, a business software company with well over 50,000 employees around the globe, about tablets. Bussman is a tablet power-user  and a big proponent of mobilizing workers.

The past week or so has been chock full of tablet news. The Motorola Xoom went on sale, the iPad 2 was announced and the BlackBerry PlayBook’s release date was leaked. We talked about all three devices and how they will be used in the enterprise. Tablets are a lot more than entertainment devices, they’re becoming serious business tools that more and more professionals will use in 2011 than ever before.

Device Agnonstic

Bussman explained that the growing tablet ecosystem is so big and mobile users’ needs so diverse that it’s impossible to ignore any of the mobile tablet platforms. While Bussman currently uses his iPad as a communication tool, he thinks the PlayBook and Honeycomb tablets will have a big impact and businesses.

“The developer community is growing for all these tablets and we have to support customers developing mobile app on all of these,” said Bussman

We talked a bit about divergent needs of end users. A software engineer’s use case is clearly different than a salesperson’s.

“My view is the combination of the hardware plus the available software drives a use case,” he said. “That drives our strategy of being device agnostic.”

RIM BlackBerry PlayBook Advantages Over iPad 2

Though he uses an iPad on a daily basis, Bussman pointed out some key advantages the PlayBook brings to the table. He pointed to his own company as an example where some users would be better suited with the PlayBook than the iPad and why some CIOs may prefer the PlayBook. Bussman was lucky enough to get a PlayBook loaner to use for a week while he was in New York recently and knows a thing or two about BlackBerry smartphones since he’s ultimately responsible for the thousands of RIM devices in his organization.

Flash isn’t just a matter of video games and video. He explained to me that Flash matters for many in the enterprise.

“The PlayBook supports Flash and in the BI (Business Intelligence) area we have a Flash-based application that is content-rich,” Bussman said. “It gives us more opportunity to put apps we’ve already built on it.”

Another key aspect of the PlayBook is that it’s designed with business in mind. While the PlayBook may have some entertainment features, its messaging and security features are its core differentiators.

iPad 2 Not a Must Have

The biggest news of this week was the introduction of the iPad 2. Though Bussman is an avid iPad user and has deployed 3,500 devices within SAP in less than a year, he doesn’t see the iPad 2 as something he necessarily needs to upgrade his workforce to.

“A faster processor, faster graphics, video conferencing – that’s good, but compared to a year ago it’s not a game changer. I’m ok with the iPad one,” said Bussman, who went on to explain that his tablet use-case won’t benefit too much from the iPad 2′s new features.

He pointed out that he will not be increasing any of SAP’s departments’ budgets so they can rush out and upgrade to the iPad or buy any other tablets. If they want to jump on the tablet bandwagon or upgrade existing tablets, they’ll have to delay other technology purchases or make other choices.

“We are very clear from a budgeting point of view and not adding budget for new devices,” Bussman said “We didn’t increase the end-user equipment budget to get the iPad. We give users choices and people like to make decisions.”

He said one are that could spur upgrades at large businesses is video conferencing, something that typically takes a very large investment.

How SAP’s CIO Uses the iPad

Bussman primarily uses the iPad to read and respond to email and as  media consumption and sharing device. He relies on Pulse to keep up with both business and IT news. He uses Twitterific to communicate with his followers, many of whom are SAP clients and employees.Flipboard and InstaPaper are another couple of his favorite apps.

“The device is super at accessing information from everywhere and sharing information and that’s the value proposition for the tablet,” he said. “With the iPad I can scan 200 headlines in five to ten minutes.”

He says he sometimes leaves his laptop at the office and just brings his iPad on short trips. But if he needs to tweak presentations or perform more complex tasks, his notebook flys too.

He said that the most popular iPad app within SAP helps visualize complex business information.

“The number one use-case we see is mobile business intelligence. It is giving us access to information from everywhere, including profit and loss and sales forecasting dashboards,” Bussman said. ”Business Explorer is number one app internally.”

What About Android Tablets?

Android tablets are going to play an important roll in the enterprise market according to Bussman. SAP announced at Mobile World Congress 2011 that it would be supporting Android tablet devices.

“The Motorola Xoom is being brought in house and tested,” he said.  ”Android is playing an important role. The application development community is already going after it, including many of our customers. Android is a must-do.”

The Future of Tablets

Bussman sees more and more tablets being used by businesses in the future, but it’s going to take some effort to deploy them broadly.

“The number one challenge with some of these tablets for CIOs is their designs are for the consumer market,” Bussman said.

Because some of these devices, including the iPad are almost always used for part business and part pleasure, SAP is exploring security and privacy options. He pointed out that some countries like Germany make it very difficult to not cross privacy regulations if users put both personal data on a company-owned device.

But in other markets, SAP is testing iPads loaded with  Afaria, a solution that will allow SAP employees to store both personal and business data on iPads securely. If an employee moves on, they could potentially keep the device and the business data could be remotely removed, without having to restore the device or removing personal data, such as photos and apps.

Xavier Lanier is the publisher of Gotta Be Mobile and a photographer. He uses too many devices to count, but his current favorites are the iPhone 5s, HTC One, Nikon D800 and Sony RX 100M II. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+.

6 Comments

  1. Guest

    03/04/2011 at 9:05 pm

    I believe that SAP prefers to refer to their BI unit as ‘Business Intelligence,’ not Business Inelegance.’ ;) Honest mistake I’m sure.

  2. Buy tablet pc

    03/05/2011 at 7:06 am

    Playbook has come out strong and stronger from very begining. First it started of with best processor and ram size. It had best front and back camera’s. Size is very portable and sleek. Great battery backup and added 4g to its kit. Latest addition of android apps support solved its main drawback of having not many apps compared to ipad. So it will be a clear winner if costumers are not dump in recognizing its value

    san,
    playbookapps.ws
    buytabletpc.co

  3. Andrewgrhogg

    03/15/2011 at 10:38 pm

    You just interviewed a guy who has a close business relationship with RIM, and asked him what he thinks of the Playbook. What do you think hes going to say – “oh yeah, it’s awesome, and has some real benefits.” When in fact he’s thinking:
    1. It’s too small (other tablet manufacturers are now coming out with 9-10 inch devices after launching with 7 inch devices)
    2. It’s battery life is gonna suck. Reports are 6 hours, i.e. not even a full business day. Apple claims 10 hours and many users see 12 hours.
    3. Most users (consumers and business people) do not care about flash support. They just want something that works and the reality is that most sites that most consumers go to today do not use alot of flash. And as web site owners realize the importance of iPad users, they will move away from Flash. Why do you think Adobe released Wallaby this month, allowing Flash developers to convert flash animations and graphics to HTML 5, which the iPad does support. They did it because the move to HTML 5 is accelerating and i inevitable. And if a business user does not need to access a UI done with Flash (i.e. the vast majority of business users) then he has zero need for flash.
    4. It has no apps – even with Android support, it will have a hundred or so Tablet specific apps, vs Apples 10′s of thousands.
    5. It must be tethered to a Blackberry device and all its email, contacts etc are flushed when the blackberry device is disconnected. Hello? Total game stopper right there.
    6. I’ll blather on about “messaging and security” but not provide any hard facts about how the Playbook is differentiated in those areas, much like RIM themselves do. But ill assume that CIOs elsewhere will do their research and realize that the iPad is “secure enough” for most uses in most businesses.

    So, tell me again why the Playbook is going to outsell the iPad in the enterprise?

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