Desperate to demonstrate it can deliver a worthwhile cloud-based application platform to keep pace with Google, Oracle, Cisco and Microsoft, SAP is rolling out StreamWork, an on-demand collaborative decision-making suite that lets users create and share documents, wikis and applications online within the same software platform.
StreamWork is SAP's (NYSE: SAP) first significant cloud computing release since it announced wholesale changes to its executive management team that culminated with the appointment of a pair of new co-CEOs, Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe. It's also evidence of a newfound appreciation for the fact that the world's largest business applications developer had lost its way in terms of developing the applications, platforms and pricing models needed to compete with Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) in the cloud.
"It's the end of the beginning stage of a long journey," SAP senior vice president David Meyer said during Tuesday's media teleconference. "Innovation is core to our future success. We believe fervently in it and we're restructuring the company to make it a reality."
Atop the new priorities of SAP is a commitment to getting its new applications to market faster, a shortcoming that has largely derailed a widespread embrace of SAP's core on-demand suite, Business ByDesign, and to delivering apps that are "beautiful to the end users," Meyer said.
Formerly known as 12sprints since its beta release in February, StreamWork features an open architecture that lets third-party developers incorporate their templates, applications and content within the StreamWork environment, allowing users to simultaneously collaborate on documents and projects without exiting the platform or requiring them to fire up new applications out of the sight of IT administrators.
SAP officials said thousands of customers have test driven the application since its beta release and that they offered up a bevy of ideas and recommendations that have been incorporated into the general release.
Among the companies who have contributed to the suite's development are Box.net, the cloud content management application developer, which makes it easier for companies to share, access and manage research reports, files and project plans from the cloud. SAP said this ensures that relevant content can be available to all participants in real-time and independent of the constraints of multiple applications and data sources, helping them make business-critical decisions on the spot.
Evernote, which describes itself as a multiplatform content capture and organization service, integrates with StreamWork to chip in notes, research and ideas sent from collaborators' PCs or mobile devices. These are automatically streamed into open StreamWork projects to "get users from idea to decision fast," SAP officials said.
Also, StreamWork includes social publishing site Scribd's document reader technology for using Microsoft Word and Excel apps directly within StreamWork without requiring users to download or open the file in a new window.
"[StreamWork's] purpose is very different" than existing horizontal collaboration applications," Meyer said. "This is a net new category that is solving a problem that shares characteristics with other collaboration products."
With Google Wave and Cisco's (NASDAQ: CSCO) Enterprise Collaboration Platform already several months ahead of SAP, there's sure to be plenty of one-upsmanship and feature flaunting among UC and collaboration vendors fighting tooth and nail for their piece of worldwide unified communications market that IDC predicts will eclipse $17.5 billion in sales by the end of 2011.
SAP said the basic StreamWork suite can be downloaded for free with the professional version going for a monthly subscription fee of $9 per user.