Will the SAP & Apple partnership really bear fruit?
Gareth Ryan
By Gareth Ryan


SAP's announcement that they are teaming up with Apple to collaborate on enterprise mobility apps is BIG news. But is this truly game-changing for SAP customers or just a great piece of publicity?

This news feels bigger than when SAP announced it had acquired Sybase back in 2010. I remember the TechEd event that followed that year was basically an iPad frenzy.  But if you thought that was a major milestone, this is another level. At face value, this is a match made in heaven.

SAP leveraging Apple’s unparalleled ability in the user experience (UX) space makes huge sense. Traditionally, UX has not been a major strength of SAP. But this partnership potentially changes all that.  Assuming both companies can get it right.

And here's the point. If, like me, you've some experience of the SAP mobility space, you may be a little sceptical. We’ve witnessed many launches of the 'next big thing in SAP Mobility' before.  But for one reason or another, we have felt somewhat cheated - big promises have typically fallen short. Let's hope that's not the case this time.

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Will SAP & Apple run simple?  

There's no doubt this partnership is exciting, with Apple the leader in UX and SAP a dominant force in enterprise software. One community in particular, the developers, will be particularly keen to get their hands dirty with iOS in an SAP HANA evironment. This group of users will be expecting big things. 

To date, delivering a native iOS app on top of SAP has been more complicated than it needed to be, using either SMP or HCPms.  Not through any deliberate obfuscation from SAP, more because the technology stack made it so.  It wasn’t impossible, just complex.  And as we all know, complex isn’t simple - which is now SAP's mantra.

HCPms and mobile apps based on UI5, Kapsel, Apache Cordova, etc. have been a good hybrid option, but arguably don’t always deliver the best UX.  Yes, they can deliver on SAP’s corporate UX strategy but, as Steve Lucas says in his post, 'We live in an app driven world', and my experience is that the best apps have the best UX.  Not one that is compromised in the name of enterprise consistency, scale and robustness. 

This isn’t a criticism of UI5, rather a request - please let's find an easier way of delivering native apps running on SAP that have a killer UX.  This is the developer communities 'great white hope.'

I’m sure my UX and iOS colleagues here at AgilityWorks will be very excited at this initial news, as we all await further information and details.  For now, it’s good to see the SAP developer website has been updated with links to Apple documentation to get started and there is some early news about the planned iOS SDK to follow, even if it does appear to be a good few months away.

This idea from SAP and Apple to partner feels like a great step in the right direction, but what matters is how the two companies execute and deliver. How the two companies work together culturally, will also be interesting to see, but that's maybe a post for another day.  


A partnership that raises some interesting questions

The news has only just broken, so you can forgive SAP and Apple for not having all bases covered yet. But over the coming weeks and months, customers and the developer community will be wanting answers to the following questions:

  • Is pushing the UI5/Fiori UX guidelines down to the native iOS level the right thing to do?
  • What will 'SAP Fiori UX adapted for iOS' actually look like?
  • Will this bring an increase in HCPms adoption and HANA Cloud Platform itself?
  • If you’re a developer in the SAP space, you’ve now got Swift to add to the languages and skills you could learn – if you’ve just learnt UI5, should you now learn Swift too? How easy will it be to transfer your skills?
  • Will we see this make a big impact on SAP’s continued efforts to attract developers from outside of the SAP ecosystem?
  • Will the iOS SDK support complete flexibility for native apps?
  • What, if anything will happen to the HAT, and Kapsel and Cordova?
  • What about Android and Microsoft? (Maybe Apple have already answered that with their recent changes to the Swift language by opening it up)
  • Will this be the end of ABAP? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

This is going to be a big story throughout 2016 and something we’ll continue to follow, with regular updates.


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Gareth Ryan
By Gareth Ryan

Gareth is the Director of SAP Technology and SAP mentor with a long history spent battling SAP’s many development approaches, UI technologies and related revolutions. He specialises in delivering simple process driven solutions with a heavy focus on quality UX and getting the most from technology. As an SAP Mentor, he also devotes time to the broader SAP ecosphere, as well as helping with community engagement and events. When away from the office, he loves exploring, collecting and listening to all sorts of music.

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