Plans For Progress

Plans For Progress

March 11, 2005

7 Min Read

Last week, vendors tried to strengthen their hands in several new markets., looking to leverage its success selling customer-relationship-management software as a service, showed off tools to switch more easily between functions of its Web-based environment. AMD, having watched Intel build a multibillion-dollar wireless-oriented business with its Centrino chips, debuted its latest model for the mobile-computing market. Microsoft has been struggling to chart a clear path for how it will move from its collection of enterprise-resource-planning products to a single code base, and last week it shed a little--some say very little--light on that effort. And Intel and SAP set out some steps they're taking--together and on their own--to help companies take advantage of radio-frequency identification technology.

Salesforce Demos Switch Inc. last week previewed an enhancement to its hosted software that's designed to let users switch between different applications created within the company's Web-based application environment.

With the Multiforce application environment, scheduled for release this summer, a customer that uses Salesforce's CRM module and, say, its project-management module, could switch between the two simply by clicking a tab while maintaining a common user interface. Users also could switch between custom sales-force applications they've created on their own.

While Multiforce is a fairly straightforward enhancement, it's key to Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff's plan to broaden the company's offerings beyond the sales-force-management market. Benioff is looking to create broader online business-process-management tools on which companies can run a range of operations, from product support to human-resources management. Having a tool that lets users click through a series of Salesforce-based applications is essential to that plan.

Salesforce's online CRM environment can be adapted to manage any business process that requires a standard approach to capturing, tracking, and integrating information, Benioff said at a customer event last week in New York. "There's a lot of loose data [inside a company] that needs to be automated."

--Paul McDougall

The Turion Has Arrived

Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s latest mobile platform, the Turion 64, is available, and the company says Fujitsu, Packard Bell, Siemens, and others will use it in their systems.

The Turion 64 is aimed at the "thin and light" notebook market, says Bahr Mahony, division marketing manager for AMD. "The low-power capabilities of Turion 64 are especially important in the commercial market, where extended battery life remains a chief concern of users," he says.

AMD disclosed plans for a Turion 64 brand at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Turion 64 is being positioned against chief competitor Intel's Centrino mobile platform, which has generated more than $5 billion in revenue the past two years.

Chipsets by leading graphics vendors such as ATI Technologies and nVidia, as well as LAN and wireless LAN chipsets from companies such as Atheros, Broadcom, and Marvell, are expected to be introduced in support of Turion 64 in the coming weeks, Mahony says. AMD is introducing 35-watt and 25-watt versions of the Turion 64, ranging in performance from 1.6 GHz to 2 GHz, and priced from $184 to $345 each in quantities of 1,000.

The Turion 64 will support 64-bit instruction sets and use AMD's PowerNow technology, which the company says can reduce power consumption by as much as 75%. AMD plans a version of its Athlon 64 processor based on its dual-core Toledo chipset for the desktop replacement segment of the notebook market in the second half of the year, Mahony says. AMD hasn't disclosed when a dual-core version of Turion 64 will be introduced.

--Darrell Dunn

New ERP Road Map

Microsoft last week revealed a modified strategy for developing a new generation of enterprise-resource-planning applications, code-named Project Green, built with its own tools. The change in plans was caused, in part, by a delay in the development of middleware called the Microsoft Business Framework that's closely associated with Microsoft's planned Longhorn operating system. "It was a factor," admits Microsoft senior VP Doug Burgum.

Microsoft Business Framework is a programming layer of certain base-level functionality that resides within business applications. Project Green is intended eventually to replace the company's acquired ERP products with a suite developed using Microsoft tools and programming languages and will depend on the Microsoft Business Framework for some of its functionality.

Until recently, Microsoft officials described Project Green as being on a similar time line as Longhorn, a client version of which is due next year and a server version in 2007. Now Microsoft plans to deliver major updates to Axapta, Great Plains, Navision, and Solomon in the 2008 time frame, while pushing the Green applications further into the future.

Microsoft officials say they remain committed to the concept of ERP applications with a common code base, but they have provided no time frame for delivering them.

Microsoft also is revamping its business-applications partner program. By the end of 2006, the company will try to orient half of the independent software vendors and value-added resellers that belong to the Microsoft Business Solutions program to focus on 14 vertical markets within the manufacturing, distribution, and services industries and the public sector. The partners will become vertical experts rather than application-specific experts. The change in strategy is meant to provide small and midsize companies with industry-specific software features.

Despite a general sluggishness in the technology market, Microsoft officials are still bullish on the opportunities in the software industry, thanks to increased processor performance, lower hardware costs, higher memory, and high-speed networking. "We're in a very exciting period in terms of the advance in information technology," Gates told attendees last week at Microsoft Business Solutions Convergence 2005 conference in San Diego. "The opportunity for software is greater than it's ever been, whether it's for work activity, which we call the digital work style that is emerging, or whether it's at home, which we call the digital lifestyle."

During his keynote, which capped the four-day conference, Gates highlighted five pillars of the company's ongoing strategy to advance and integrate its entire software environment, including the Microsoft Business Solutions applications as well as Windows, .Net, and Office. "There are many big breakthroughs ahead--the natural interface on these systems, the way you'll have them wherever you go, the way they'll hook up to higher speed wireless," Gates said. "But the thing that will determine if that comes through in terms of value is the entire software stack, with the applications at the top."

--Laurie Sullivan

Intel Puts Heft Behind RFID

Radio-frequency identification technology got some big backing last week when Intel and SAP disclosed a joint effort to make RFID implementations easier. The two companies say they're introducing a new concept--enabling companies to integrate RFID data directly into back-end systems.

The partnership will focus on data exchanges between readers and business applications, making it easier for businesses to feed RFID data directly into enterprise systems. The two also say they'll work with partners, such as device-management companies, so that businesses can administer, monitor, and manage all their different RFID devices more easily.

Intel says it will supply the necessary technology to deliver a device manager through the SAP NetWeaver platform. Companies can implement the system on any Intel-based RFID back-end hardware such as servers and front-end hardware such as desktops, notebooks, and RFID readers--regardless of the provider.

SAP, meanwhile, continues to advance RFID capabilities in its enterprise software. Last week, it began shipping a new version of mySAP ERP, which can accept information from RFID technology. "We've produced a module within mySAP ERP that can read or write information to and from RFID tags," says Ian Kimbell, VP of strategy and business development for mySAP ERP. "The information that's being written onto the tag is in the SAP system. In contrast, the data being read from readers and transmitted into your logistics system enables companies to automate processes."

--Laurie Sullivan

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