Global CIO: An Open Letter To Apple CEO Steve Jobs

Human beings' 15-second limit: how the iconic iPhone will change the way enterprise apps are written and perform.
And Plattner said the application of that new technology within SAP's products will be dictated not by any SAP technology or product strategy, but rather by the real-world experiences of the company's customers for whom mobile access and decision-making is becoming indispensable.

"People at SAP ask me, 'Why do you insist on running a dunning program in seconds instead of two minutes? No one is asking for that type of speed for a dunning program,' " Plattner said.

"And I tell them, "You are asking the wrong question: the right question is, how long will someone with an iPhone wait for an answer? And the answer is that 15 seconds is the absolute maximum amount of time people will wait before they go and start doing something else: check voicemail, send text messages, check email, send text messages to themselves ... This is the new reality!"

Now Steve, as you know, Hasso is a great showman and it's possible that he was dramatically overstating his case to make his point (and also to underscore the power of the iPhone's corporate creator, which is one of SAP's showcase global customers). But I don't think he was overstating anything, and I have three reasons for saying that:

1) He was speaking at the coming-out party for some technologies under development for about a decade at SAP, and that have the potential to revolutionize the type of value SAP customers can extract from its applications.

2) He was speaking at SAP's biggest, brightest, and most-followed event of the year in front of about 15,000 people live in Orlando and Frankfurt and on the web.

3) Look again at his response to his SAP colleagues when they ask him why non-urgent apps have to 10 times faster begins with this vital insight: "You are asking the wrong question." To me, that signals a sea change in how Plattner and SAP view the world of enterprise applications: they realize it's no longer about the complex code but about how a rapidly expanding set of business users gain value from SAP software in a rapidly changing business world.

So Hasso says 15 seconds is the new limit, and to me that'll go right up there with 186,000 miles per second: an indomitable law that we might not always understand but that nevertheless trumps all.

You've made that happen, Steve, whether you ever intended to or not. As a result, tens of millions of businesspeople around the world will have you to thank for a new breed of handheld enterprise apps that aren't painfully slow just because, well, they're painfully slow. Instead, these new apps will conform to what users want, instead of users having to live with the mediocrity that's always a result of misplaced priorities.

So thanks for helping Hasso realize that software companies have, for some time now, been asking the wrong questions. And here's hoping that you and the iPhone and the iPad (which, by the way, are terrific business tools) convince lots more of those companies to stop pursuing answers to the wrong questions and instead start asking the right ones.

Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.

For more Global CIO perspectives, check out Global CIO, or write to Bob at [email protected].

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