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SAP Gets Rich

SAP application data is about to get a lot flashier.

Oracle pinned SAP as its new main rival. SAP is responding as just that very thing, at least when it comes to data presentation.

SAP said this week that it licensed a product called "Flex" from Macromedia that consists of user-interface components and a development environment that allows the construction of dashboards without requiring Java programming skills. Flex is a rich client interface, meaning it can show a slew of separate data sets on a single Web page and import new data without uploading new Web pages. Think about Web sites built using Macromedia's Flash technology, and you get an idea of why such a dashboard is called "rich."

The move marks an advance over SAP's current capabilities. The company now has a product called Visual Composer that requires users to build interfaces using Java Server Pages. SAP hopes to bring Flex's capabilities into Visual Composer, thereby allowing its customers to build charts, graphs and other data displays more dynamically.

Making it easier to cull data from its enterprise software will give SAP a boost against Oracle, at least among BI-conscious buyers. Rich client interfaces don't just look cooler--they allow more complex data representation and therefore ease data analysis. As Gary Hein of the Burton Group told InformationWeek's Charles Babcock, "It's a savvy move on SAP's part." Hein expects IBM, Oracle, and BEA Systems to add rich-client presentation to their own application servers.

Aside from the Macromedia news, a load of other SAP developments came out of the company's SAPphire '05 international customers conference in Copenhagen this week. IBM debuted a version of its DB2 database that's optimized for SAP. Separately, SAP teamed with Microsoft; the two companies said they're jointly developing a product that will integrate SAP data into Microsoft Office front-ends.

Not to be left out of the SAP partnership-go-round, Business Objects debuted a version of its XI business intelligence platform that's integrated directly with various SAP applications. You can read about that partnership, which expands on the already friendly terms between the two companies, in this story.

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