Thursday, February 18, 2010

From Punch Card to Cloud Computing - SAP

From SAP R/3 through mySAP ERP and SAP Business Suite 7, SAP has a long and varied history, accompanied by characters such as Hasso Plattner, Shai Agassi, and Léo Apotheker.

Back in the 1970s, while the world was in the throws of sexual revolution and the Red Army Faction had plunged West Germany into crisis, five former IBM employees joined forces in Mannheim in 1972 to found a company whose name translated as System Analysis and Program Development. What began as a small enterprise is now the world’s largest provider of business software, with around 47,800 employees and offices in more than 50 countries.

Punch cards were used in the 1970s (photo: SAP)

Mainframes and punch cards

Claus Wellenreuther, Hans-Werner Hector, Klaus Tschira, Dietmar Hopp, and Hasso Plattner wrote computer programs for payroll and accounting. In the era of mainframes and punch cards, the goal of the five entrepreneurs was to develop business software capable of processing information in real time. The data was entered on screen, instead of using the punch cards. The “R” in the product name – which stood for “real time” – was destined to play a major role in SAP names until 2003. In 1973, the software module for financial accounting hit the market. The business software began attracting the attention of an increasing number of companies, including the cigarette manufacturer Roth-Händle. The software ran on IBM computers and used the DOS operating system.

SAP founders: Klaus Tschira, Hasso Plattner, Dietmar Hopp, and Hans-Werner Hector (photo: SAP)

Two years later – in 1975 – the software was enabled for purchasing, inventory management, and invoice verification. What was to become SAP’s trademark was already possible back then: all the applications could be integrated. For instance, the data from materials management was transferred straight to financial accounting. This meant that invoice verification and posting could be completed in a single operation.

Hasso Plattner at the Stock Exchange (photo: SAP)

In 1976, the company changed its name to SAP GmbH, becoming a limited liability company. A year later, it moved headquarters from Weinheim to the small town of Walldorf, some 20 miles further south. This was also the year that SAP acquired its first customer abroad, in Austria. The following year, SAP became available in French, when the agricultural machinery manufacturer John Deere opted for SAP’s accounting software.

The company was expanding rapidly. In 1979, the cornerstone was laid for SAP’s own data center in Walldorf. Two years later, SAP presented its wares at a trade show for the first time – at Systems in Munich. Back then, around 200 companies were using SAP software, which had added production management to its capabilities. The company premises in Walldorf were bursting at the seams, so plans were drawn up for an additional building. In 1985, SAP generated sales of 64 million German marks (around U.S.$ 21 million) and had more than 100 employees.

The previous year, SAP (international) AG, was set up in Switzerland, to give SAP even better access to foreign markets. In 1986, more offices were opened in the German cities of Ratingen and Düsseldorf. Two years later, Hamburg and Munich followed. In 1986, SAP’s sales hit 100 million German marks for the first time. A new module for human resources was also launched, and SAP made its first appearance at CeBIT, the world’s biggest computer tradeshow.
Going public

In 1988, SAP went public, and the limited liability company became a stock corporation. More international subsidiaries sprang up in Denmark, Sweden, Italy, and the United States. Subsidiaries in the Netherlands, France, Spain, and Great Britain had already been established the year before. In 1989, SAP branches were founded in Canada, Singapore, and Australia. By the end of the 1980s, SAP had some 1,400 employees.

In 1990 – the year of German reunification – SAP opened its Berlin office in what was to become the country’s new capital. That same year, SAP acquired a 50% stake in the German software company Steeb and took over software vendor CAS.

SAP office in the 1980s (photo: SAP)

SAP R/3 – database, application, and client

Winter 1991 in the German city of Hanover. At the CeBIT trade fair, SAP presented a computer program for companies that was destined to set new standards for business software: SAP R/3. It was characterized by its special client/server architecture, comprising database server, application server, and presentation layer. The software was structured to match the organization generally found in companies. There were modules for financials (FI), controlling (CO), materials management (MM), sales and distribution (SD), production planning (PP), and human resources (HR). SAP R/3 mapped typical processes for the day-to-day activities of the business world. Users could access their data using a standardized interface. While the predecessor SAP R/2 was designed especially for mainframes, SAP R/3 could be distributed across different computers.

However, SAP R/3 was relatively expensive and time-consuming to implement, because the software had to be configured individually. That’s why mainly large enterprises opted for SAP R/3 – including Coca-Cola, Microsoft, General Motors, Deutsche Telekom, the German post office, and Daimler-Benz. Such big customers had a positive impact on the balance sheet: In 1997, SAP generated sales of more than 6 billion German marks (approximately U.S.$ 3.5 billion) and had more than 13,000 employees.

In 1993, SAP had already began cooperating with Microsoft, with the goal of enabling SAP R/3 for Windows NT. The two software giants cemented their relationship again in 2006 with the joint product Duet.

SAP’s business application software was called SAP R/3 from 1992 until 2003. Then came mySAP ERP. Today, there’s the SAP ERP 6.0 application, which is also part of SAP Business Suite 7. SAP ERP 6.0 is based on the SAP NetWeaver technology platform. The platform was unveiled in 2003 and is a flexible enough to also integrate non-SAP systems using open interfaces.

SAP Business Suite 7 has been officially available since May 2009. As well as containing enterprise resource planning functions, SAP ERP enables companies to work with customer relationship management (CRM), supply chain management (SCM), supplier relationship management (SRM), product lifecycle management (PLM), and special industry solutions. SAP Business Suite is designed for large enterprises that want to reduce their IT costs and optimize their business processes.

With the acquisition of the French company Business Objects in 2008, SAP concentrated its focus on enterprise performance management and business intelligence.

SAP discovers the Web and the midmarket

The Web conquered the world. And in 1996, it became possible to hook Internet applications up to SAP R/3 using open interfaces. With SAP Business ByDesign, launched in 2007, SAP presented a solution that is accessed exclusively through the user’s Web browser, with modules that can be rented according to each company’s needs. At its unveiling, Henning Kagermann, who was CEO at the time, spoke of “the most important announcement I have ever made in my career.”

In 2006, SAP further strengthened its position in the midmarket: The SAP Business One application and the SAP Business All-in-One solutions are preconfigured products that cover the most important business processes for small and midsize companies.
Sailing away – the founding fathers step down

When SAP was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1998, founding fathers Dietmar Hopp and Klaus Tschira stood down from the executive board and joined the supervisory board, with Hopp becoming chairman. Hasso Plattner and Henning Kagermann became co-CEOs.

In 1999, Plattner announced a new strategy, with a view to becoming even more customer-friendly. The new buzzwords were and EnjoySAP. By the new millennium, SAP had become the world’s leading provider of business software solutions. Five years later, annual sales had increased to €8.5 billion.

SAP acquired the Israeli company TopTier in 2001, and its founder Shai Agassi joined the SAP Executive Board the following year. Léo Apotheker also joined the board in 2002. In 2003, Hasso Plattner, the last of the SAP founders, stood down from board. As a passionate sailor, he received a very special leaving present – a sail signed by all the SAP employees.

When Shai Agassi left the board in 2007, Léo Apotheker became deputy CEO. Agassi’s departure triggered a number of restructuring measures and changes: The SAP Executive Council was founded, comprising corporate officers who report directly to the SAP Executive Board and who are responsible for SAP’s market and product strategy. In 2008, Léo Apotheker and Henning Kagermann were appointed co-CEOs. Erwin Gunst, Bill McDermott, and Jim Hagemann Snabe were new additions to the board.

In 2009 – the year of the global financial crisis, which also affected SAP in the form of revenue shortfalls and layoffs – Léo Apotheker took over the reins single-handedly. Nine months later, he stepped down with immediate effect after a mutual agreement was met with the SAP Supervisory Board not to extend his contract. John Schwarz, who joined the SAP Executive Board following the acquisition of Business Objects, also resigned in 2010. Erwin Gunst stepped down for health reasons and will not return. Gerhard Oswald is the new COO. Meanwhile, Hasso Plattner has reemerged from retirement. At the request of the SAP Supervisory Board, he will again play a significant role in determining the future direction of the company.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Motorola Droid

Motorola's Droid phone will sport new software from Google Inc that threatens navigation devices by Garmin and TomTom and could help win back market share lost to the iPhone.

One of the newest features of the Droid is Google Maps Navigation, which offers real-time, turn-by-turn walking or driving directions.

The news helped push TomTom shares down 21 per cent as the navigation device maker also warned of more price declines. Garmin shares fell 16 per cent.

The Droid will go on sale on November 6 and cost $199 for people, who commit to a two-year service contract - a venture of Verizon Communications Inc and Vodafone Group Plc - Verizon Wireless said.

Verizon has exclusive US rights to the phone, the first to use Google's Android 2.0 software.

The leading US mobile provider said it will promote the device with its biggest marketing campaign ever - giving Motorola a good chance to improve its sales, analysts said.

Verizon Wireless' Chief Marketing Officer John Stratton said the Droid would hold its own against iPhone even as he conceded that Apple had revolutionised the mobile industry.

"We have to demystify the notion that (iPhone's) untouchable," Stratton said at the launch event in New York. "This product can stand up and compete."

Stratton said the Droid is the first in a range of Motorola Android phones from Verizon Wireless, as it looks to regain ground lost to AT&T Inc, the US iPhone provider.

The Droid is a massive bet for Motorola, which after losing market share to rivals for more than two years has reorganised its entire mobile business around developing Android phones.

"In terms of the rejuvenation of mobile devices, this is an important next step," Motorola Chief Executive Sanjay Jha said. "We are ready to produce very large volumes."

Motorola said the Droid is the thinnest phone to feature a slide-out Qwerty keypad. It sports a five-megapixel camera, a high-resolution screen, fast chips from ARM Holdings and Texas Instruments, and a day's battery life.

Android 2.0 works with Microsoft's Outlook, making it more attractive for business users. Google said it expects other phone makers to support the new Android version soon.

Ad Campaign

Verizon's marketing weight will "make a huge, huge difference" in helping Droid sales, analyst for market research firm Interpret, Michael Gartenberg said.

Verizon spent $2.4 billion on advertising in 2008, according to TNS Media. The company recently started showing Droid video ads highlighting its advantages over iPhone.

"We are everywhere with this," Stratton said, declining to disclose the exact marketing spend for Droid. "You won't be able to avoid it."

Stratton said the phone's relatively large size might appeal more to men than women.

Gartenberg expects pent-up demand because it is the first time Motorola customers would be able to use an Android device on the Verizon network.

"As long as it is not buggy, it will do quite well," Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart said. "I don't think this will single-handedly save Motorola but it is a crucial step", Greengart added.

Greengart said that while the navigation feature will not stop consumers from buying dedicated GPS devices, it could put pressure on companies like TomTom and Garmin to cut prices.

The navigation service will respond to voice commands and displays Google's online street photo archive. Users can choose "layers" to add to maps, including traffic conditions, or data about local stores or points of interest.

TomTom shares finished down 21 per cent at 8.11 euros, while Garmin shares closed down 16 per cent at $31.59. Motorola shares rose 0.8 per cent to $7.96, Verizon shares rose 2.6 per cent to $29.95, while Google shares fell 1.5 per cent to $540.30.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Google Wave

About Google Wave

Google Wave is an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

Google Wave: Live collaborative editing

Google Wave: Natural Language Processing

What is a wave?

A wave is equal parts conversation and document. People can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

A wave is shared. Any participant can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add participants at any point in the process. Then playback lets anyone rewind the wave to see who said what and when.

A wave is live. With live transmission as you type, participants on a wave can have faster conversations, see edits and interact with extensions in real-time.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Augmented Google Earth animated with real time human and vehicular traffic

Researchers from Georgia Tech have devised methods to take real-time, real-world information and layer it onto Google Earth, adding dynamic information to the previously sterile Googlescape.

They use live video feeds (sometimes from many angles) to find the position and motion of various objects, which they then combine with behavioral simulations to produce real-time animations for Google Earth or Microsoft Virtual Earth.

They use motion capture data to help their animated humans move realistically, and were able to extrapolate cars' motion throughout an entire stretch of road from just a few spotty camera angles.

From their video of an augmented virtual Earth, you can see if the pickup soccer game in the park is short a player, how traffic is on the highway, and how fast the wind is blowing the clouds across the sky.

Up next, they say they want to add weather, birds, and motion in rivers.


Samsung's New 12MP camera phone

Just yesterday we were talking about Samsung’s latest 12MP camera phone the SCH-W880 that’s been fitted with a 3X optical zoom lens. More news today says that it’s going to be around the South Korean market for awhile in a CDMA state.

The handset features -

* 3.3-inch AMOLED touchscreen display (capacitive)
* 3G capabilities
* Wi-Fi
* Bluetooth, USB (micro)
* 4GB internal memory with microSD card support

The camera is of course the central feature of this handset. It also allows for HD video recording (720p at 30fps). The camera will come with variable aperture settings a Xenon as well as an LED flash. Aside form this being the first ever 12MP camera phone with optical zoom functionality the fact that it records video at the resolution it does is also a first. It seems like it's even designed to look and feel like a digicam with a dial selector for various modes placed on one side.

The European version of the same handset with maybe a few adjustments here and there to suit the crowd will be called the M8920. No word on availability yet.

Samsung Corby Hits India

Samsung has just announced the launch of the Corby (S3653) in India. It’s set to be one of India’s cheapest touchscreen mobile handsets with a price tag of just Rs. 9,600. It comes with bold color options such as Jamaican Yellow, Cupid Pink, Minimal White, and Festival Orange so that users can choose their favorite color.

“As a Company that leads in innovation, Samsung Corby is another example of the Company’s commitment to developing new products and technologies
designed for specific audiences in keeping with their needs,” states B D Park, Director-Telecom , Samsung India Electronics Pvt. Ltd.

The handset will feature –

* 2.8-inch QVGA touchscreen with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI and Haptics, one finger zoom, gesture control
* EDGE/GPRS connectivity
* Bluetooth with A2DP and USB
* Live feeds for Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter
* MicroSD card support
* 2 megapixel camera
* FM radio with RDS

“Samsung leads the market globally for full-screen touch phones and recognizes the importance of SNS in the modern mobile industry. Samsung has its target audiences at the heart of its business strategy and the design and functionality of Samsung Corby meets the needs of a highly connected and style-conscious youth audience." stated Park

VIA - Tech2

Coming soon to the small screen: TV in 3D

Osaka, (Japan): You've seen movies in 3D. Now, how about your favourite TV series? Panasonic Corp unveiled on Monday a 50 inch (127 cm) high-definition 3D plasma TV and glasses that make images appear like you can touch them.

At a demonstration at Panasonic's head office in Osaka, F1 race cars roared right by viewers and gymnasts barrelled down a runway, hitting vaulting horse and flipping towards the audience.

"We've introduced concrete plans to deliver the first 3D into people's homes. It won't disappoint," said Yoshiiku Miyata, Panasonic managing executive officer in charge of audio visual products.

He declined to comment on an exact release date or price tag, stating that the company hopes the new TVs will hit shelves sometime in 2010.

The technology works by tricking the brain into seeing 3D as high-speed shutters in the glasses work in sync with the TV to deliver a double layered image at twice the speed of normal TV.

"When the TV is showing the left image, the shutter closes the right eye so people can see only the left image," explained Keisuke Suetsugi, manager in charge of high quality AV development.

"And the next moment, when the TV is showing the right image, the shutter glass is covering the left." The company hopes the smaller, more living room friendly 50 inch model will become a popular choice for home theatres than a 103 inch big brother that debuted last October.

The new model will go on display to the public at the CEATEC Japan tech show on October 6-10.

Panasonic announced in August it will team up with Twentieth Century Fox and Lightstorm Entertainment in the making of Oscar-winning director James Cameron's new 3D film Avatar, set to open in theatres worldwide this December.

Chief rival electronics maker Sony Corp announced earlier this month it also plans to launch 3D TVs by 2010.

Sony to launch new PS3 game title in theatres

Video gaming will hit the big screen next month when Sony Corp unveils a new game title for its Playstation3 game console at movie theatres.

On October 5 and 6, four theatres in San Francisco and Thousand Oaks, California, Rosemont, Illinois and Bellevue, Washington, will give viewers a chance to play the upcoming action game Uncharted 2: Among Thieves title--on movie screens equipped with Sony digital-projection technology.

Those theatres will provide viewers with PS3s connected to Sony's 4K digital cinema technology, which is in about 500 theatres nationwide and which Sony says provides better image resolution than traditional projectors.

Mike Fidler, senior Vice President of Sony Electronics' Digital Cinema Solutions and Services Group, hopes events like this can eventually drive revenues for Sony, video game makers as well as theatre operators.

"This is the first time we're doing it in a theatre. We think it's a start of something for us, and hope we can build this into a standard element in the movie-going experience," he said. "Our goal in converting theatres to digital is to go beyond the traditional movie-going experience and focus on helping exhibitors find ways to fill seats."

"Gaming will be an important part of that equation." The first night will be a private invitation-only event, while the second event will be open to the public, to be publicized through radio and social networking sites.

Theatre chains have struggled to sustain revenue growth as home entertainment and the recession entices some moviegoers to stay home. And Sony, like other game console makers, is hoping for a hit title this holiday season to drive platform sales as the industry grapples with a protracted decline.

Both Sony and Microsoft Corp, the maker of the rival XBox 360, have recently slashed prices on their consoles. Sales of video game equipment and software in the United States fell 16 percent in August to $908.7 million, the industry's sixth consecutive monthly decline, research group NPD reported.

Uncharted 2 is due to be released on October 13.