SAP is still developing a Java-based user interface for R/3 and its other business applications. But don't expect to see that on a Web browser any time soon.
For users who want to access SAP's software via the Web, the German vendor plans to stick with a simpler user interface that's written in HTML and due for general release by year's end. It all comes down to speed, said SAP co-CEO Hasso Plattner at a press conference in Waltham, Mass., this week.
HTML "clearly beats every other concept" on the Web for fast performance because no code has to be downloaded to an end user's browser, Plattner said. "It's much faster than Java, and that's a huge advantage," he added.
SAP's decision to focus on HTML "is probably a good call," said Harry Ludgate, CIO at Dow Corning Corp. in Midland, Mich. "That's the same road we're going down." Dow Corning, a $2.6 billion maker of silicon-based products, doesn't have big plans to use Java internally at this point, Ludgate said.
Ed Toben, CIO at New York-based Colgate-Palmolive, also is ready to follow SAP's lead. "We want them to make that kind of decision, not us," Toben said. "We're a consumer products company. We're not trying to be the technical experts in this area." And faster performance for end users "is hard to argue with," he added.
SAP released a beta-test version of the HTML user interface, known officially as its Workplace Portal, in late September. The Java-based user interface should be ready next year but will now be marketed as a multiplatform desktop alternative to SAP's Windows client software, Plattner said.
It may even fully replace the Windows-only product, although Plattner said that hinges on talks between SAP and Microsoft. "That's partly a question for Microsoft, whether they can deal with a vendor as large as SAP [switching entirely to Java on the desktop],"he said. "We don't want to irritate them."