Application rivals SAP, Baan cooperating on portals

Longtime business application rivals SAP AG and Baan Co. NV put aside their traditional differences this week to formally announce a deal under which they will cooperate with one another on portal software.

The two companies said Netherlands-based Baan will incorporate technology developed by SAP's portal subsidiary into its iBaan Portal product line. The agreement continues a relationship that was already in place between Baan and TopTier Software Inc., a San Jose-based portal developer that SAP acquired and used to create the SAP Portals Inc. subsidiary three months ago.

Baan, which was bought by London-based Invensys PLC last year after a wrenching series of losses and management changes, will also have some say in the development of SAP's portal technology. The deal gives Baan the right to participate in an advisory board that Palo Alto, Calif.-based SAP Portals is setting up, the companies said.

Despite their rivalry in the enterprise resource planning software business, the agreement between SAP and Baan comes as no big surprise. SAP Portals expects to get a large portion of its revenue from licensing technology to other vendors, and Laurens van der Tang, Baan's president, appeared publicly with SAP officials earlier this year to demonstrate how the portal software developed by TopTier could be used to integrate different applications.

An SAP spokeswoman this week said the formal announcement of the technology alliance "simply confirms that Baan is committed to continuing its longstanding partnership with SAP Portals," stemming from the earlier arrangement with TopTier. Baan introduced the portal software in January as part of its new Web-enabled iBaan application suite.

Portal packages are aimed at simplifying end-user access to corporate business data and other information stored in a variety of applications. Hasso Plattner, SAP's co-chairman and CEO, said at the company's user conference last month that the technology is central to its strategy and promised to support non-SAP applications in portals.

The public cooperation with Baan shows that SAP "is acknowledging it is not the only kid on the playground and it must play nice with others," according to a recent report by analysts at AMR Research Inc. in Boston. However, the report said SAP to date "has never been very successful at denting markets with independent products outside of its installed base."

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