What will SAP & Apple's partnership bring to the enterprise table?

6 May 2016

Nathan Adams

Nathan Adams

User Experience and Design Lead Consultant

SAP announced a new partnership with Apple this week to bring new tools to the development of mobile apps on SAP HANA for mobile. What is behind this move? So far, details are few and far between. Steve Lucas' post does give us some insight, though it looks like we'll have to wait until SAPPHIRE NOW 2016 to discover the full details. In the meantime, let’s speculate…

In retrospect this shouldn't have been a surprising move. SAP is a core component of the well-oiled machine that Tim Cook helped build as COO that serves to manufacture and deliver billions of devices every year. Apple has taken steps to recognise, as the preeminent consumer IT company, that enterprise is not their greatest strength - setting up a partnership with IBM in 2014 delivering 100's of enterprise apps. Following this, it partnered with Cisco in 2015. This new relationship with SAP has the potential to deliver more devices into Enterprise hands (on the back of a maturing, and slowing tablet market), whilst helping drive HANA Cloud Platform (HCP) adoption for SAP.

It's an interesting move though. At Bluefin, we have seen trends move to the delivery of Fiori style web apps, either through the device's browser, or through some form of encapsulation like PhoneGap or Kapsel. Which begs the question, do enterprises want native iOS applications? I'm not sure, at this stage, if this announcement is primarily about targeting this area. Currently, if an SAP customer is deploying Fiori apps onto the desktop and mobile device, then I don't see this changing… not in the near future, anyway.

This seems to be a move which is about unleashing the innovative abilities of the existing iOS and enterprise development communities to develop mobile applications, backed by HCP which target specific needs. The web app is, to an extent, still an imperfect concept. As developers we spend time making sure we understand the implications of what happens when a user navigates to a specific URL, refreshes the page, or opens up the developer tools. The UX of these apps, whilst much improved (and I'm very much a fan of what SAP has done with UI5, and the Fiori design guidelines), still finds itself in the uncanny valley of UI, not quite living up to the feel and experience of native controls.

It looks like this approach is going to bring us, as developers and users:

  • The power of Apple's development tools, including the fantastic Swift language, which in my experience has been a joy to work with.
  • A Fiori informed, iOS design language to address UX and UI.
  • The power of HCP as a backend to leverage.
  • The appropriate APIs to easily access the power of HCP.

By making it easier to develop native iOS apps, SAP is helping customers and partners, such as Bluefin, fully utilise the capabilities that only a native app can deliver. Reduced application start-up times, access to a myriad of device sensors (cameras, bluetooth, etc.), higher processing power and improved offline support do allow a broader range of business apps.

The development of an SAP Academy, in addition to training for the developers, looks like it is not just targeting those of us who have developed for SAP in the past. It is also looking to target those who might want a cloud based platform for enterprise, and some of the best development tools for apps to build the next enterprise (or even consumer) hits.

Bringing native app development back into play with web apps can only be a good thing, surely? It gives both customers and developers a wider choice based on their specific needs and requirements. It will be interesting to watch this partnership play out, and see who the winners and losers are, if any.  Now, we just have to wait until SAPPHIRE NOW 2016 for the next instalment.

About the author

Nathan Adams

User Experience and Design Lead Consultant

Nathan's inspiration comes from designers. How they think and what they do. Over the last couple of years he has made a significant shift in his approach to implementations:  from a technical IT viewpoint to a design one. Understanding how designers work has really helped him bring an enhanced user interface to his projects. All too often in the technical community the value is placed on the coding and the backend. Nathan's passion lies with helping clients and his peers truly understand the benefits of excellent user experience. 

The Dieter Ram 10 principles for good design are Nathan's mantra for design, and particularly user interaction. This assists him to deliver seamless and intuitive user interfaces for the projects he runs. The important thing for Nathan is to focus on how people will use the technology.  

Working on projects ranging from £100k+ through to £10+ million, Nathan spent 2 decades working with Barclays, so it won’t surprise you to learn that typically his clients come from financial services.

Bluefin and SAP S/4HANA - welcome to the one horse race