Microsoft, SAP to ship link in June

Duet is a tool for accessing SAP ERP and CRM data via the Outlook interface

Next month, sometime rivals SAP and Microsoft will start shipping a jointly developed product that links SAP's business applications with Microsoft's Office desktop software.

The plan to build a tool for accessing SAP ERP and CRM data via the Outlook interface was launched a year ago as the Mendocino project. The technology shipping in June will be called Duet, officials say.

Duet will let Microsoft Outlook users access and interact with back-end SAP applications. The software has been installed in some 100 joint sites for testing.

Among the test sites is San Jose-based semiconductor maker Atmel, a user of SAP's R/3 ERP software. Atmel CIO Mikes Sisois says a handful of users in the company's finance and marketing operations have been testing Duet since January. Atmel is likely to install a production version of the software in July, after a rollout of the mySAP ERP software is finished, Sisois says.

He says that about 20% of Atmel's R/3 base is power users who won't care about Duet's ease of use. But many employees who use SAP sparingly will benefit from using the Outlook interface, he says.

Duet is aimed at corporate users who rarely run SAP applications but are regular Office users, says Sharada Achanta, SAP's senior director of solution marketing for emerging solutions.

The first iteration of the tool, Duet 1.0, will link Microsoft and SAP applications to support budget monitoring, employee time and leave management, and organisation management. For example, an employee can record work and billable hours in Microsoft Outlook and then synchronise the data with SAP software.

While Duet will probably be successful, it faces a number of hurdles. Among them is the need for competitors Microsoft and SAP to closely cooperate, according to a recent note issued by analysts at Boston-based consultancy AMR Research.

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