SAP unveils Google-inspired software, iPhone program

BOSTON (Reuters) - SAP SAPG.DE unveiled on Tuesday the first in a new generation of business software products that focus on ease of use, borrowing tools that have drawn hundreds of millions of users to Google GOOG.O.

An iPhone advertisement is seen in Cologne November 9, 2007. SAP said on Tuesday that new software for sales-force automation that it is hailing as one of the most user-friendly products to date would be compatible with Apple Inc's iPhone. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

The German company is the world’s biggest maker of business management software and, while analysts generally praise its broad line of products for their deep functionality and analytical abilities, they say they are difficult to use.

SAP Vice President Ian Kimbell demonstrated the first in a new line of software dubbed SAP CRM 2007 at a conference attended by some 500 industry analysts and customers in Boston.

"It didn't look like SAP," said Daryl Ganas, director of sales and marketing operations for Intel INTC.O, one of several companies that has helped SAP test the software.

“It felt and looked to me like something my sales people would use,” he said in an interview

The software can be customized by each user with as much flexibility and ease as one might be able to customize an iGoogle page, or myYahoo page, officials with SAP said.

They said SAP plans to roll out versions of software other than customer relationship management, or CRM, though they declined to discuss the timetable.

SAP said that, when it starts selling the new CRM software later this month, it will make a program available that sends customer data to Apple Inc's AAPL.O iPhone.

SAP is breaking with precedent by introducing versions of the new software that are compatible with the iPhone ahead of programs for mobile devices businesses traditionally use, such as Research in Motion's RIM.TO Blackberry, Palm's PALM.O Treo and devices that run on software from Microsoft Corp MSFT.O.

“The iPhone has become such a popular thing,” said Bob Stutz, a SAP senior vice president who is responsible for developing customer relationship management software. “Everybody wants the ease of use of the iPhone.”

The first generation of the iPhone software will load business contacts, information on sales prospects and account data onto the device, Stutz said.

Stutz said SAP decided to introduce the iPhone software ahead of programs for other devices at the request of its sales people, saying they prefer using iPhones to the other devices.

Programs for the Blackberry and other devices will ship a few weeks after the initial launch of SAP CRM 2007.