SAP Demos New Muse User Interface at Sapphire

SAP gave users an early look Wednesday at a new interface known as Project Muse, which the company will roll out across its high-end applications over the coming 18 months.

SAP developed the GUI over the past year through a close partnership with Macromedia and Adobe Systems, which acquired Macromedia in December.

Project Muse will let users access SAP’s mySAP Business Suite applications from their Macintosh, Linux or Windows desktops and from mobile devices, according to Shai Agassi, president of SAP’s product and technology group. He demonstrated the interface during his keynote address at SAP’s Sapphire U.S. user conference in Orlando.

The move is part of SAP’s strategy to simplify access to its enterprise applications and hopefully attract more users to access mySAP software, including the company’s ERP and CRM software.

SAP will first make the new Project Muse GUI available to users of its mySAP ERP 2005, Agassi said. The company will release the interface in waves over the next year and a half, and also intends to provide tools so that customers can give their custom-developed software the same Project Muse look and feel.

In combination with SAP’s NetWeaver integration platform, Project Muse draws on two Macromedia products, the company’s Flash authoring software, and its Flex methodology and services used to create interactive websites and applications. The interface is a skin that sits on top of SAP’s mySAP applications that embeds help and includes guidance on how to fill out specific fields in order forms and invoices.

SAP and Macromedia first announced they were working together at SAP’s Sapphire in Copenhagen in April 2005. The relationship has been somewhat overshadowed by the partnership between SAP and Microsoft, announced at the same event, to tighten integration between Microsoft’s front-end Office software and SAP’s back-end enterprise applications. The fruits of that relationship will appear in June as Duet for Microsoft Office, and SAP and will cost US$100, according to Bill McDermott, president and chief executive officer of SAP Americas.

SAP is lining up multiple ways to access its applications, whether via Project Muse, Duet, mobile devices, voice recognition, RSS feeds or electronic forms through Adobe Forms, Agassi said.

"We’re making ourselves much more open to casual users," Leo Apotheker, SAP board member and president of customer solutions and operations, said in a press conference. "If that adds up to software for the masses, we’ll be very happy."

Agassi said the new user interface was long overdue, but also quipped, "You can’t hurry a muse." He added that it was necessary to have service-oriented architecture (SOA) technology in place to make Project Muse a reality. All the new interfaces SAP is coming out with for its applications depend on the company’s take on SOA, which it calls Enterprise Services Architecture.

-China Martens, IDG News Service

For related news coverage, read SAP Broadens Customer Base at Sapphire and SAP Stresses Master-Data Management.

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