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SAP and Apple union expands opportunities for developing iOS mobile apps

As iPhone and iPad growth slows, Apple leverages the power of SAP's HANA and Fiori platforms in hopes that SAP's army of 2.5 million developers will create enterprise apps for iOS.

The enterprise software company SAP and Apple are joining forces in a partnership designed to bring a new generation of enterprise-class applications to the iOS operating system.

Though the SAP and Apple union benefits corporate developers building applications on SAP's widely used HANA application and analytics platform, Apple is viewing the partnership as a path toward reinvigoration of the iPhone and iPad as an enterprise application platform. Given the current state of tablet sales, the strategy appears to be well-timed. According to research frm IDC, iPad sales in the fourth quarter of 2015 plummeted 24.8% from the same period a year earlier. Even iPhone sales are currently in a state of malaise, declining in the first quarter of 2016 for the first time in the device's 13-year history.

Driving the partnership to develop iOS mobile apps is a plan to create a development environment for building native apps for iPhone and iPad that leverage SAP's HANA in-memory analytics platform. Two key initiatives behind the partnership are a new iOS software development kit (SDK) and educational academy that trains developers to create purpose-built iOS apps. SAP plans to develop its own apps for the iOS platform as well as open the environment to corporate and independent developers.

Partnership benefits SAP and Apple

The union is seen as benefiting both companies. "This is good news for SAP customers who have struggled through many incarnations of SAP's mobile strategy," said Jeffrey Hammond, a Forrester Research vice president and principal analyst who serves development professionals. "While SAP's Fiori (user experience development toolset) has gotten some traction and good response, we've seen SAP customers frustrated with other parts of SAP's mobile app strategy."

Sam YenSam Yen

Sam Yen, SAP's chief design officer, agreed that Fiori will play a crucial role in the development of iOS mobile apps. "We're trying to take the enterprise experience to the next level and capitalize on people using apps on their iPhones at home and the user experience they enjoy from that," he said. "With our Fiori efforts, we want to optimize for mobile scenarios."

We're trying to take the enterprise experience to the next level and capitalize on people using apps on their iPhones.
Sam Yenchief design officer, SAP

From the perspective of application design and lifecycle management, Yen said that apps destined for enterprise and consumer use are vastly different. "If you think about the app lifecycle and how you distribute applications, the idea is to keep the experience simple, like in the consumer space, but with the inherent configuration and management flexibility that you need in the enterprise space," he said.

Toward that end, the intent of the SDK is to keep the development process for iOS mobile apps simple while hiding complexities in the background, including connectivity and communications protocols while using Apple's Xcode and Swift languages to connected to SAP.

The SDK, when released later this year, is expected to reach a vast potential audience of 2.5 million who develop for the SAP platform and 10 million currently building native apps for iOS. "These are two very different worlds that we will bring together through the SDK," Yen said.

Training academy for developers

It's one thing to have tools at one's disposal, but leveraging them fully will require an educational effort, Yen said. A training academy will target SAP developers who have little experience with iOS and the underlying tenets for creating "beautiful looking apps that are pleasurable to use while keeping the complexity hidden," Yen said.

Hammond also noted that the duopoly is good for Apple, which covets better inroads to buyers of enterprise technology. "Each complements the other's weak areas," he said. Hammond noted that the SAP relationship is reminiscent of a similar deal Apple and IBM struck in December 2015, but goes further into development of enterprise applications.  

Another Forrester analyst, vice president and principal analyst serving application development and delivery professionals, John Rymer, said the SAP partnership, like the IBM one, is a further acknowledgement by Apple that it will never become an enterprise software company. "It's a way for Apple to sell more gear into the enterprise application environment. It's up to IBM and SAP to do the integration processes while the Apple gear makes a further penetration into vertical markets," he said. "It makes perfect sense to me."

Next Steps

Tips for developing apps for Apple's iOS devices

Plenty of options for SAP's HANA cloud platform

How do I get started with SAP's Fiori platform?

Dig Deeper on Mobile cloud computing application strategy

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